MESA, Ariz. -- He's only 20, but even Javier Baez said what he has done the last two days is "amazing."
The Cubs' future shortstop hit a home run Saturday on the first pitch he saw, giving him three homers on three pitches in three straight at-bats.
And then he hit another one later that is one of the longest in recent Hohokam Stadium annals.
"I'm seeing the ball pretty good and hitting the ball hard," said Baez in an intentional understatement as he tried to stay low-key. "I just like (swinging at) the first fastball I see. Sometimes I miss it, sometimes I hit it."
Baez's two homers on Friday will not go down in official Cactus League statistics because they came in an exhibition against Team Japan.
But official or not, Baez finished two days of work with four home runs on just seven pitches.
In his first at-bat Saturday, he homered on the first pitch.
In his second at-bat he flied out to deep left field on the first pitch.
And in his third at-bat against the Royals' Bruce Chen, he smoked a 1-and-1 pitch for a homer, one so long it nearly cleared the left-field scoreboard.
Baez had homered twice in his first 31 spring at-bats and if his two home runs Friday counted in Cactus League statistics, Baez would have six homers in 38 spring at-bats.
While it may be tempting for fans to say stick him in the void at third base and let him flail away, the No. 1 draft pick in 2009 still is considered a shortstop and never has played above Class A. He most likely will start the season at Double-A Tennessee.
"There's no rush," said coach Jamie Quirk, who was filling in while manager Dale Sveum was with the split squad in Las Vegas. "Some guys are special and his talents will take him as quickly as he needs to be. But there's no rush."
Rizzo returns: After nearly two weeks of being on the road with Team Italy, Anthony Rizzo returned to the Cubs Saturday. And while he was in the lineup against the Royals, he admitted the intensity of spring games was different from those in the World Baseball Classic.
"You had to really slow the game down as much as possible," he said. "Every single pitch, every inning, especially as the game got later . . . your at-bats mean more. It's all about slowing the game down and focusing.
"(It's an experience) I wouldn't be able to get here, even during the regular season. Win or lose a game, you still have a game tomorrow, where (the WBC) is kind of like a playoff atmosphere. You lose, you're done."
Team Italy surprised the experts, surviving the first round before being eliminated with losses to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In Italy's five games, Rizzo hit .235 with no homers and six RBIs. He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Saturday, his first Cub at-bats since March 3.
Rizzo returned from the tournament with a helmet autographed by teammates and memories "of the whole experience of seeing the WBC and how much fun it was."
Asked if he ever wanted to visit Italy, perhaps to hold clinics or talk baseball, the native Floridian said:
"I want to go see the country first, get away from baseball, maybe see some of the guys, see what their hometowns are all about. They know all the ins and outs -- and the good food, plus the scenery."
It's a pain: Outfielder Brett Jackson, who probably is headed back to Triple A, will be out of drills for about a week after an MRI showed inflammation in his right shoulder.
"I'm going to keep working every day, the No. 1 (goal) is to get 100 per cent healthy going into the season," the former first-round draft pick said. "It's a little minor thing, we're just being cautious."
Jackson said he experienced pain only when throwing and not from swinging the bat. He is hitting .313 with a homer and three RBIs in 13 spring games.
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