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Cubs

Chicago Cubs notes: Javy Baez sets tone with defense

Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez receives congratulations as he returns to the dugout during the first inning of a spring training game against the Texas Rangers on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez receives congratulations as he returns to the dugout during the first inning of a spring training game against the Texas Rangers on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Javy Baez’s defense looks like it didn’t take any time off.

Before Sunday’s Cactus League game against the Giants, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was raving about the plays Baez made at second base in Saturday’s home opener at Sloan Park.

Baez came in on one play and got a runner. He also went deep in the hole between first and second to snag a ball in short right field. He got the batter.

“How about it?” Maddon said. “First play when he’s coming in on the ball. And there’s no way he’s going to make that play that bounced over (Anthony) Rizzo’s head (in short right), but he did. Yeah, he’s different. He’s just different. Did it surprise you, no, that he did it? But to do it that early is something a little bit more surprising.

“But then again, that’s really the kind of tone you’re looking to have set, that defensive tone, that energy, that enthusiasm. Everybody comes running into the dugout. Everybody’s going nuts because that’s almost like hitting a grand slam. He does that. We are capable of feeding off of our defense. I’d like to see us do that more often again.”

Speed on the basepaths: Kyle Schwarber batted third Sunday in the Cubs’ 12-10 victory over the Giants. He went 2 for 3, hitting a pair of singles to right field.

The slimmed-down Schwarber also stole second and third base in the first inning against pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey. Schwarber got a good jump on the steal of second, and he didn’t even draw a throw when he stole third.

Ian Happ and Tommy La Stella batted 1-2, respectively. Happ hit a homer to right leading off the game. The ball was a high drive that kept carrying. He was 2 for 2 with two RBIs.
La Stella was 0 for 2 with a walk.

Getting it done quickly: Right-hander Oscar De La Cruz earned high marks for his ninth-inning work in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Rangers.

The 23-year-old De La Cruz, who started 12 games last year for Single-A Myrtle Beach, worked a scoreless ninth inning, striking out one and walking one. Maddon liked De La Cruz’s pace. He got the ball and threw it.

“Not only that, quick, but there’s also that focus and that aggressive assertiveness, attacking of the zone kind of approach,” Maddon said. “I felt it from the side. If you’re hitting, you’ve got to feel that a little bit. It’s beautiful to watch. Maybe that could become contagious.”

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