Javy Baez nearing return to Cubs


Javy Baez could follow in the footstep of his teammates in the very near future.

It would not be a surprise to see Baez take a page out of Anthony Rizzo's book (and Kyle Schwarber before him, in 2016) and make a quick return to the field in the Cubs' time of need.

Baez broke his left thumb Sept. 1 on an awkward play at second base and has been sidelined since.

However, he has been cleared to pinch-run and for light baseball activities, including hitting off a tee. 

Joe Maddon said he was "close" to utilizing "El Mago" as a runner in Wednesday night's game. Maddon instead utilized Daniel Descalso to pinch-run for Victor Caratini in the bottom of the 10th inning, but the Cubs manager said he will be ready to call Baez's name Thursday night or this weekend if a situation arises.

Baez would need to wear a big mitt on his left hand to help protect that thumb when he is running the bases and Maddon said neither he nor the coaching staff will try to convince Baez to slide feet-first now instead of headfirst. 

"He's doing really well," Maddon said. "Those big ole oven mitts — that's all he's gonna need, I think. And then it also provides the potential for being safer, getting in there a little bit sooner. It is what it is. He's progressing well."

At this point, Baez is having more of an issue defensively (using that thumb to close his glove) than he has hitting.

The Cubs still don't know when their All-Star shortstop will be able to return to game action. But if the Rizzo situation has shown us anything, it's to expect the unexpected -- especially right now, with the season on the line and the Cubs battling for the division against the first-place Cardinals all weekend (and then again for three games next weekend in St. Louis).

Maddon said Baez has been getting "antsy" in the dugout lately, hoping to get an opportunity to get into a game in some capacity.

Beyond pinch-running, the 2019 NL MVP runner-up may be available for pinch-hitting duties, possibly even as soon as this weekend.

"It's good for all of us. Rizz wants in there, [Baez] wants in there," Maddon said Thursday afternoon, roughly 90 minutes before Rizzo made his stunning return. "They all want to be out there. It's hard to imagine what they're gonna be able to do after injury. But we're gonna find out. 

"Weirdly, there's a little rest involved, too, that can actually make them feel even stronger and better at this particular moment. As they say they're ready to play, we'll play 'em."

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