PITTSBURGH — The Cubs are hopeful Javier Baez will soon return to the game that could become a sanctuary for him.
Baez has been on an extended leave of absence from Triple-A Iowa since his younger sister, Noely, died on April 8. Baez was exceptionally close with Noely, who was born with spina bifida and lived until the age of 21.
“I was told he’s getting close to coming back,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday at PNC Park. “From our perspective, we want him to take as much time as he felt was necessary. So I don’t know yet. I know it’s close. I’ve heard that there’s rumblings of him coming back relatively soon. The kid was crushed by the moment, man. And we all grieve in different manners.”
The Baez question came up with Addison Russell taking over at second base and making his big-league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Maddon pushed for Baez to make the team out of spring training as the Opening Day second baseman, pointing to his strong arm, defensive range, game-changing speed and flashes of power.
But Baez hasn’t had a chance to make any of the adjustments the Cubs need to see at the plate. He hasn’t yet played for Iowa this season while spending time with his family.
Maddon said: “I’m not one to — in any way, shape or form — try to attempt to say: ‘Listen, it’s about time you came back. The grieving time is over.’ I don’t know his family setup, and I don’t know how he was raised with that young lady.
“From my perspective, we just respect that process. And then when he comes back, we’ll welcome him back openly.”