Not much has gone smoothly in Javy Baez's big-league career.
He struck out almost half the time and hit just .169 during his rookie season in 2014 and then wasn't called up to Chicago until Sept. 1 last season after dealing with the loss of his sister and spending time in the minor leagues.
Baez was slated to start the 2016 campaign on the major-league roster, but a thumb injury derailed hopes of that.
He's back now, reporting to Wrigley Field Friday before the Cubs' three-game series against the Colorado Rockies.
"These last couple years have been up and down," Baez said. "Hopefully this year, with everything that I've learned, I'll get everything together and have a good year."
Baez has never played in Chicago before August and even though he missed another Opening Day, the 23-year-old is ready to hit the ground running on a team that started out 8-1.
His excitement to be back and healthy was palpable as he walked into the Cubs' sparkling new clubhouse Friday morning, hugging teammates and getting his locker squared away.
Baez was ready to be a super-utility guy for Joe Maddon's squad in spring training and that plan hasn't been altered. On his rehab stint in the minors, Baez played mostly left field and third base, but he also represents the backup option for Addison Russell at shortstop and Ben Zobrist at second base.
Baez is also the likely backup first baseman and got some experience in center over the winter and early in spring.
"You'll see him all over the map," Maddon said. "He's gotten all his work at all the different positions and will continue to do so."
While Baez wasn't in the starting lineup Friday, Maddon said he planned on getting him in the lineup soon - "A young guy like that, you can't sit too long."
Maddon has raved about Baez's baseball IQ since last spring, talking up the 23-year-old's speed and defensive ability. Even if he doesn't start in games, Baez could slot in as a defensive replacement, pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.
"I'll be ready to come in the game late or at the beginning," Baez said. "I came here to have fun and to play."
The Cubs had a roster conundrum in the spring after re-signing Dexter Fowler. That move left Baez and Jorge Soler without a definitive role, but as Maddon predicted, things took care of themselves a bit with Baez's early thumb issue and then Kyle Schwarber's season-ending knee injury in the third game of the season.
Still, Maddon has his work cut out for him to try to find a way to get Baez, Soler, Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella enough at-bats to stay sharp.
"We have so much versatility on that bench," Maddon said. "...There's so many moving parts right now. All these guys are really viable, so I just gotta try and get them all invovled."