Baseball / Sports

Two Javier Baez homers fuel 6-2 Cubs victory

DENVER -- Javier Baez didn't know where he was going to live for the duration of the season, but Cubs fans can look forward to seeing their 21-year-old phenom settle in the batter's box Friday when he makes his Wrigley Field debut.

Baez fueled the hype leading up to his home debut by smacking two home runs to cap a three-hit, four RBI performance that enabled the Cubs to coast to a 6-2 victory over the Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

"I haven't been nervous," Baez said Thursday after becoming the 23rd player to have a multihomer game in his first three major league games. "I've been slowing the game down and thinking about the situation of the games."

Baez, who hit a game-winning homer in his major league debut Tuesday, smiled when asked about Cubs fans eager to see him Friday against the Rays at Wrigley.

"I hope so," Baez smiled.

That Baez collected three hits to snap an 1-for-11 start further fueled the calmness he will need amid the expectations of Cubs fans hoping to see the touted plethora of prized prospects crystallize into a title contender.

"It definitely helped in my first at-bat getting a hit," Anthony Rizzo recalled of his Cubs debut when he went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs on June 26, 2012, against the Mets. "I always say it helps you relax when you get a couple of hits."

Baez got a brief sampling of the media interest in him early in spring training. But manager Rick Renteria and Rizzo have been impressed with Baez's knack for having his priorities right.

"He knows this opportunity is real," Rizzo said. "This is his time. I tell him and Arismendy (Alcantara) you have to convince people now this is your job to have.

"You don't know what's going to happen this offseason or who they're going to sign. You want to audition every day to make sure that going into 2015 you're starting wherever they put you."

But first things first. Baez will have to get acclimated to the spartan accommodations at Wrigley, with a clubhouse about one-third of the size of the visitor's clubhouse at Coors Field and no space next to the home dugout to take extra swings between at-bats.

He'll figure that out," Renteria said.

With each at-bat Thursday, Baez looked more comfortable. In the third, he took a called strike before ripping a single into left field to score Chris Valaika.

In the sixth, Baez worked a 3-2 count before hitting a home run down the left-field line, and then he hit an 0-1 pitch into the right-field bullpen for a two-run homer in the eighth.

Other than Baez, the least surprised person was fellow rookie Kyle Hendricks (3-1), who played with Baez at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

"He thrives on the big stage," Hendricks said. "Every time we had a big game, he plays well. He's fun to watch, and I'm glad he's up here. He deserves it."

Renteria anticipates Baez will find a balance between acknowledging and accommodating fans while preparing to play each day.

"He has a grasp of being able to separate the nuances of everything that's around him and remain within himself and stay focused," Renteria said. "I'm sure he will.

"He's going to have struggles. He's going to have great days, bad days, good days, not so good days. It's all a part of the process. That's why he's here. And probably dealing with all the fan (attention) will be part of the process. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. But we all have to keep perspective and have a good balance in all those things."

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