On March 16, Javier Baez slid head first into first base and injured his thumb in the process.
Although he did appear in another Cactus League game a little bit later, he hasn’t played since March 20, and will ultimately start the season on the 15-day disabled list.
It’s possible – at least in some small part – that this path was chosen to provide the Cubs with some more time to decide on the final spot of the roster – Matt Szczur (and his no minor league options) vs. Tommy La Stella (and his better overall fit on the team) vs. Neil Ramirez (and his upside and extra arm in the pen) – but Baez would have probably needed at least some small time off nonetheless.
And fortunately, “some small time” is probably all he’ll need to miss.
Following that, the Cubs will return to Arizona for a four-game set against the Diamondbacks, and Baez will be eligible to rejoin the team there. Despite that eligibility, though, it doesn’t sound like that’s the plan for Baez. Instead, it sounds like he will look to officially rejoin the roster once the team makes its way back to Chicago to take on the Reds on April 11. “I’ll be there when we go to Chicago,” Javier Baez said via Jesse Rogers at ESPN, “We’re all on the same page. We don’t want to rush anything.”
Baez may be on the same page as the coaches and front office, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t disappointed. In fact, he’s positively bummed to be missing out on his first official Opening Day. If you recall, he was expected by many to make the team out of spring camp last year after receiving an endorsement from manager Joe Maddon, but the roster wound up shaking out differently (and then his sister passed away, which further impacted things).
Although Baez is understandably disappointed, he does seem to buy in to the thinking behind the decision. “I haven’t played in a few days, so they want me to see live pitching,” Baez said via Carrie Muskat at Cubs.com. “I want to see live pitching, too.” As you now know, Baez hasn’t seen live game action since March 20. So, it makes a good deal of sense to let him get back into a rhythm before being thrown to the lions (or rather, the Angels) at the Major League level on Opening Day, especially when his at bats might be erratic, given his expected role.
It’s been a tumultuous year and a half for Javier Baez, but the organization and the fans are behind him. He’s a talented, obviously hard-working, likable player and at some point (soon), he’ll make his way back to the Majors. When he does, we’ll all be anxious to see what he can do as the team’s super utility man.