Cubs

Javy Baez nearing return to Cubs

Javy Baez nearing return to Cubs

Javy Baez could follow in the footstep of his teammates in the very near future.

It would not be a surprise to see Baez take a page out of Anthony Rizzo's book (and Kyle Schwarber before him, in 2016) and make a quick return to the field in the Cubs' time of need.

Baez broke his left thumb Sept. 1 on an awkward play at second base and has been sidelined since.

However, he has been cleared to pinch-run and for light baseball activities, including hitting off a tee. 

Joe Maddon said he was "close" to utilizing "El Mago" as a runner in Wednesday night's game. Maddon instead utilized Daniel Descalso to pinch-run for Victor Caratini in the bottom of the 10th inning, but the Cubs manager said he will be ready to call Baez's name Thursday night or this weekend if a situation arises.

Baez would need to wear a big mitt on his left hand to help protect that thumb when he is running the bases and Maddon said neither he nor the coaching staff will try to convince Baez to slide feet-first now instead of headfirst. 

"He's doing really well," Maddon said. "Those big ole oven mitts — that's all he's gonna need, I think. And then it also provides the potential for being safer, getting in there a little bit sooner. It is what it is. He's progressing well."

At this point, Baez is having more of an issue defensively (using that thumb to close his glove) than he has hitting.

The Cubs still don't know when their All-Star shortstop will be able to return to game action. But if the Rizzo situation has shown us anything, it's to expect the unexpected -- especially right now, with the season on the line and the Cubs battling for the division against the first-place Cardinals all weekend (and then again for three games next weekend in St. Louis).

Maddon said Baez has been getting "antsy" in the dugout lately, hoping to get an opportunity to get into a game in some capacity.

Beyond pinch-running, the 2019 NL MVP runner-up may be available for pinch-hitting duties, possibly even as soon as this weekend.

"It's good for all of us. Rizz wants in there, [Baez] wants in there," Maddon said Thursday afternoon, roughly 90 minutes before Rizzo made his stunning return. "They all want to be out there. It's hard to imagine what they're gonna be able to do after injury. But we're gonna find out. 

"Weirdly, there's a little rest involved, too, that can actually make them feel even stronger and better at this particular moment. As they say they're ready to play, we'll play 'em."

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Cubs Talk Podcast: John Baker on getting mentally prepared for baseball

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: John Baker on getting mentally prepared for baseball

Former Cub and now Cubs mental skills coach  John Baker joins the podcast with David Kaplan and Gordon Wittenmyer to discuss the mental aspect players are going through in the return to play. They dive into keeping players focused, how the lessons of late Cubs psychologist Ken Ravizza still impacts the team and how the Cubs are operating under the new guidelines.

(2:23) - Biggest mental challenges Cubs players are dealing with

(10:55) - Ken Ravizza's lessons still impact the Cubs

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(19:46) - Getting Cubs players to be in the moment when playing

(25:00) - Kaplan and Baker exchange tattoo stories

(30:30) - Not having fans around has been tough

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

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USA TODAY

Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay made waves on Thursday tweeting (now deleted) about the conditions for players at the club’s alternate training site, hosted at the South Bend Cubs facility.

Alzolay and the 10 other players in South Bend are eligible for this season but will remain inactive unless need arises on the big league roster. He tweeted the players make $18 a day — or $10, when accounting for “dues” the players owe, while possibly tipping clubhouse attendants.

Whether it was a miscommunication by someone with Alzolay, the actual amount the players get is $25 and no dues are deducted from that. The option to tip clubhouse attendants is up to players individually. Through Summer Camp, the 11 Cubs in South Bend will also receive two packaged meals a day at the complex.

Once the regular season starts (July 23, per MLB’s arrangement for the 60-game campaign), the alternate site Cubs will receive $50 a day in meal money, instead of what was originally proposed because the Cubs proposed higher daily meal money.

Players will receive full salaries beginning July 23, per MLB’s agreement, and minor leaguers are being paid in the meantime. Six of the 11 Cubs in South Bend are not on the 40-man roster, and they will continue receiving $400 a week. Those on the 40-man (including Alzolay) received advanced salaries, per MLB’s agreement with the MLBPA in March.

Alzolay received $30,000 from that agreement.

Additional important context is the South Bend facility is one of the best in minor league baseball — with housing for the players nearby. The players are residing at new apartments that opened in December right outside the ballpark. They aren’t being charged for those apartments through Summer Camp, and the Cubs will subsidize many of the players in South Bend once the regular season starts. 

MORE: Where Cubs could find position of strength in 2020: South Bend

Alzolay later tweeted an update on the matter.

In wake of José Quintana’s thumb injury, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the Cubs haven’t decided if Alzolay will join the Wrigley Field training group.

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