Baseball / Sports

All eyes on Javier Baez; Cubs beat Rays, 3-2, in 12 innings

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez doesn't know where the phrase "Javy time" came from, but he definitely knows it didn't come from him.

"Somebody made that up," he said.

But six games into his major league career, the phrase has already become part of Cubs fans' lexicon, like "Holy Cow" and "Cubbie Occurrence."

Whenever Baez comes to the plate, attention must be paid.

The education of Baez continued Sunday at Wrigley Field in a 3-2, 12-inning win over the Rays. The rookie second baseman drove in one run, let another in with an error and kept the game-winning rally alive by reaching first while striking out on a wild pitch.

"I'm happy for him and ecstatic he's here," said Anthony Rizzo, who delivered the walk-off hit. "He looks great. He's struck out a few times, but it doesn't bother him. To me, if I had struck out seven times in two games, I'd be like up the wall."

Baez is hitting .276 with three home runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks in his first 29 at-bats. He'll remain in the No. 2 hole until further notice, manager Rick Renteria vowed, despite the low on-base percentage.

Cubs fans are going to have to live with the strikeouts, at least for now.

"I congratulated him after his first three-punchout game," Rizzo said. "I said, 'Hopefully you have a lot more, because that means you'll be in the big leagues for a long time.' "

The Cubs believe one day we'll all look back on this summer as the one when everything started to happen.

The arrivals of Baez, Kyle Hendricks and Arismendy Alcantara have put a noticeable jolt into the Cubs' front office, which spent two years pleading for patience. Opening the pipeline to them is like uncorking a vintage bottle of wine.

"Since we've been here, we've been talking about when these guys get up there," said Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting/player development. "By no means are they established, obviously. They're just breaking in. But now it's not so far down, it's not looking way into the future and talking about it.

"Kris (Bryant) is having the year he's having in Triple A, Jorge (Soler) is in Triple A and there's a chance we may see him soon, or at some point. In Double A you've got Albert (Almora) and Addison (Russell), and in Single A you've got (Dan) Vogelbach and (Kyle) Schwarber and (Billy) McKinney.

"Those are all the position guys, but on the pitching side, Kyle Hendricks coming up and doing what he's done, and we've had such good performances from Eric Jokisch and Dallas Beeler in Triple A and C.J. (Edwards) and Pierce (Johnson) in Double A.

"So now you're starting to see that side of the pipeline happen too. So from an organization standpoint, everyone is excited about it. We've got a little taste of the excitement with guys finally touching the big league team, and I think once they get more and more ingrained into the clubhouse, into the players they become ... and now you see the wave right behind them."

The challenge for Baez is maintaining his calm demeanor while everyone, including the media, wants a piece of him. Outfielder Chris Coghlan was the National League's rookie of the year with the Marlins in 2009 and then was non-tendered last winter, so he knows firsthand that attention can be fleeting.

Coghlan's message is to enjoy it but know it's all just pixie dust.

"When you're young you love it, because this is what you've wanted to do your whole life," Coghlan said. "I remember when I cared about answering questions about every game when I was in Miami. It's the first time playing on TV, and people see you and send you texts. As a young player you like it. I did.

"And as you get older, you realize it's more for the birds, and it's about you focusing (on your job). But it's a tough challenge because there are so many things that are new to you, and you're trying to balance it all."

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