Baez making case for arriving in Majors shortly
Highly touted Cubs prospect hits two-run homer in All-Star Futures Game
MINNEAPOLIS -- Arismendy Alcantara cracked the code. How long until there's a wave of talent pouring into Wrigley Field behind him?
Javier Baez believes his time is coming fast, and on Sunday did what he could to show he's ready. He drove a Lucas Giolito curveball over the right-field fence for an opposite-field, two-run homer in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Target Field.
"That was fun,'' said Baez. "I hit it hard. Pretty good.''
As Baez rounded third base, he and Triple-A Iowa teammate Kris Bryant, who played for the U.S. Team, had a brief conversation that ended with smiles all around.
Baez's sixth-inning homer briefly gave the World Team a one-run lead, but the U.S. answered with a two-run homer by Joey Gallo in the bottom of the inning and went on to win, 3-2.
"We gave it everything we had,'' Baez said.
Before the game, Baez had been asked if he thinks he'll make his Cubs debut this season.
"For sure,'' said the 21-year-old shortstop. "Just going to keep doing what I'm doing and get called up soon.''
Baez, who created excitement by hitting five homers in Spring Training, hit .172 in April, but was batting .240 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs in 84 games when he and Bryant left the Iowa Cubs to travel to Minneapolis. He has 51 homers in 214 games at three levels over the last two seasons.
"Having Kris Bryant in the lineup, Arismendy Alcantara too, has been great,'' said Baez, who grounded out in his other at-bat. "We're all doing good. We all trust ourselves. I'm pretty sure one of us three is going to have a good game, whether it's him or me or Alcantara. If they don't pitch to Alcantara, they've got to pitch to me; if they don't pitch to me, they've got to pitch to Kris. It feels good to have him in the lineup.''
Manny Ramirez, signed to be a player-coach, has added to the spice of the Cubs' Triple-A stew. Both Baez and Bryant said Ramirez has often been the first player to the clubhouse and the last to leave the batting cage.
"Once I get to the field we go straight to the cage and hit and hit and hit,'' Baez said. "He's always doing something. He likes to hit a lot. He likes to talk to other guys. He likes to work.''
The lessons start shortly after lunch.
"We get to the field 12:30, 1 and around 1:30 we are in the cage working on something,'' Baez said. "He's just trying to help on what we're doing in each at-bat. He talks to everybody. He's just one of the guys on the team, that's how he is. He's trying to help everybody.''
Addison Russell, the highly regarded shortstop acquired from Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija trade, wasn't invited to the Futures Game. He and Bryant played together in the Arizona Fall League last year but Baez said he hasn't yet gotten to know him.
"I've heard he's a good prospect,'' Baez said. "Hopefully he can keep doing good and move up.''
While Baez has remained at shortstop, he takes ground balls regularly at second base in anticipation of a possible position change. After all, Starlin Castro appears to have secured his spot at Wrigley Field with an All-Star season.
Baez said he doesn't worry about the glut of shortstops or even a possible trade.
"Not really,'' Baez said, when asked if the addition of Russell impacted him. "I'm just doing my own thing. I'm sure they have plans for us. … We all understand this is a business. Whatever happens is going to happen. We're ready for it.''
Bryant says he doesn't worry about whether Alcantara's arrival will trigger a wave of promotions.
"I don't focus on that,'' said Bryant, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk as the U.S. cleanup hitter. "I know the guys in the clubhouse, we're very happy for him. But focusing on that is sort of a distraction. You don't need to do that. Just go out there every day, work as hard as you can. That will help you get there soon.''
Alcantara hit his first Major League home run in the Cubs' loss to the Braves on Sunday. He has five extra-base hits in five games since being promoted while Darwin Barney was on paternity leave.
While Alcantara was never regarded as one of the Cubs' top prospects, he has long had the respect of his teammates. Bryant, who started the season with Double-A Tennessee, isn't the least bit surprised to see his former Iowa teammate start his career with a splash.
"I wouldn't expect anything else,'' Bryant said. "In my short time watching him play, he got a hit every time. I think he goes about it the right way. He's an outstanding player, a great teammate. He's trying to get better. I can't say enough about him at this point.''
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.