Cubs belt four homers in win over Royals
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs manager Dale Sveum has compared Javier Baez's bat speed to that of nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield's vicious swing.
Even Sheffield, who finished with 509 career home runs, would be impressed with what the 20-year-old Cub's shortstop prospect has done over the last two days.
Baez has hit four home runs in his last five at-bats on a total of seven pitches, including two off Bruce Chen on Saturday as a Cubs split-squad pounded out an 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
"I am seeing the ball pretty good and hitting the ball hard," he said. "This is my first time and it feels great."
The two homers he hit Friday, including a two-run game-winner, won't show up in the Cactus League statistics because they came in an exhibition against Japan, which is preparing for the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
The feat, however, is very real in the organization's eyes.
"He is special and that's why he was drafted where he was," said Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk, who was managing while Sveum was with the other squad in Las Vegas. "Hopefully, he keeps doing what he is doing and time will tell when he gets here."
Baez was the Cubs' first pick — ninth overall — in the 2011 draft.
"There is no rush. Some guys are special and his talents will take him as quick as he needs to be. He is getting great experience of playing all of these major league spring training games," Quirk said.
Baez has received an extended look because shortstop Starlin Castro missed 12 games with a leg injury before recently returning, and now the Cubs are in the middle of three straight split-squad days.
Baez is expected to be sent to minor league camp in the coming days but not before giving a glimpse of what he can do.
"That's not my decision so I will do whatever they want me to do," said Baez, who is hitting .324 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 34 at-bats. "My goal was to show them I can play the game hard and come to play."
Joining Baez in the hitting barrage were David DeJesus, who led off the bottom of the first with a home run, Alfonso Soriano, who hit a two-run shot in the first and second baseman Alberto Gonzalez, who connected for a solo shot in the fourth.
"I'm feeling good," Soriano said. "My body has responded very well and I have to work with my timing at little bit at home plate."
Chen, who is competing with three others for the fifth sport in the rotation, was roughed up by the Cubs as they hit five home runs, including three in the first inning, off the veteran left-hander.
In five innings he allowed nine hits, seven runs — 6 earned — with one walk and four strikeouts while facing 25 batters.
"I feel like I made some adjustments after the first inning," Chen said. "I made some good pitches and some bad pitches. Overall, I need to improve and make better pitches. My body felt good and I just need to work on keeping the ball down."
NOTES: Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson (right shoulder) had an MRI Friday that showed inflammation, but it isn't considered serious. He is expected to be out of the lineup for about a week. . Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (stiff back) went through a full workout Saturday is scheduled to return to action Sunday or Monday. . Royal first baseman Eric Hosmer and reliever Tim Collins were expected to return to Arizona on Saturday after their team with Team USA in the WBC. The date of their availability hasn't been determined.