Cubs don't believe Javier Baez will get overwhelmed in super-utility role


Cubs don't believe Javier Baez will get overwhelmed in super-utility role

MESA, Ariz. - Javier Baez isn't worried about finding a full-time position right now.

The Cubs plan to use Baez in a super-utility role in 2016, backing up positions all over the diamond.

Even with Dexter Fowler and Shane Victorino in camp now - joining Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler among the outfielders - Joe Maddon doesn't want Baez to ditch his outfield glove anytime soon.

[RELATED - Despite crowded outfield, Cubs think Soler can hit reset button in 2016]

Instead of turning double plays with the infielders, Baez was with Soler and others in left field during Saturday's workout and Maddon has already confirmed Baez could be a defensive sub pretty much anywhere.

We already know Baez can play the infield, coming up as a shortstop and seeing some time at second and third base the last couple seasons.

But now he's going to be backing up Anthony Rizzo at first base, too.

"He's fine [at 1B]," Maddon said. He's very comfortable. He's actually very comfortable anywhere out there.

"I think he could play defense as good as anybody."

That vote of confidence from Maddon shouldn't come as a surprise as the Cubs manager has been talking up Baez's defense since last spring training.

Before Fowler signed, the Cubs were planning on getting Baez plenty of work in center field this spring to potentially figure in the mix there during the season.

[MORE - With Fowler signing, Cubs make another statement that future is right now]

He's played just one inning at first base in his big-league career and never played there in the minors.

"Whenever they need me at first, I'm gonna be there for sure," Baez said. "My career is just starting, but the future is going to let us know where I'm going to play.

"I don't rush to find my position right now. I'm gonna be moving around and I'm fine with that right now."

There are the natural Ben Zobrist comparisons, of course, as Maddon played Zobrist all over the place in Tampa Bay.

With Zobrist on the Cubs' roster, he can help show Baez the ropes, so to speak, and the Cubs feel a super-utility role can actually benefit Baez's offensive game.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

"Just knowing him well, to this point, I don't think it's going to be overwhelming at all to him," Maddon said. "I think he actually kind of likes it.

"I like when a young guy comes up like that and plays multiple positions. I think it takes emphasis off of his offense. So a guy like him might actually relax offensively knowing, 'I gotta come to the park today and catch some grounders at third, some at short, I gotta take flyballs.'

"I think you might see him actually hit better under those circumstances. I'm going to talk to him about that concept exactly.

"I don't think it's overwhelming to him whatsoever. I think it'll keep his mind kind of fresh on a daily basis."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.