Javier Baez Apparently Can Do Whatever He Wants in the AFL, Too
Five Cubs saw game action in tonight's AFL Opening Night at Salt River Fields between the Mesa Solar Sox and the Salt River Rafters:
MATT SZCZUR: Played CF and hit lead-off, grounded out 6-3 leading off the game, then laid-down a 5-3 sac bunt in the 3rd, walked his next two times up, and popped up to the first-baseman in his final PA. He saw 19 pitches in his five ABs.
JAVIER BAEZ: Got the start at SS and batted 7th in the Solar Sox order, absolutely crushing a 450+ ft HR over the CF Batter's Eye on a 1-1 pitch (94 MPH fastball) off Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood in his first AFL AB, and then lining a two-run double (with a lot of top-spin) into the LF corner in the top of the 6th. Baez also struck out (swinging) twice, the first time on an 0-2 pitch (slider away in the dirt) and the second time on a 1-2 pitch (also in the dirt, after taking two strikes). Baez also advanced to 3rd base after his two-run double when the Rafters catcher tried to pick him off 2nd base, and Baez alertly just kept running to 3rd (was scored as a WP). BTW, at age 19 Baez is the second-youngest player in the AFL. (The youngest player is Rangers SS Luis Saldina, who is also 19, but is 5-1/2 months younger than Baez). FWIW, Starlin Castro was also 19 when he played in the AFL in 2009.
RUBI SILVA: Pinch-hit for DH Aaron Westlake leading off the 8th and lined an opposite-field single just to the right of the diving SS, eventually coming around to score the go-ahead run.
KEVIN RHODERICK: Relieved starter Jarred Cosart in the bottom of the 4th (Cosart retired the first ten batters he faced), working 1.2 IP (23 pitches - 18 strikes) and allowing no runs on one hit (a hustle double where the batter looked to be out at 2nd base) and no walks with three strikeouts. Rhoderick has had major control issues throughout his career, but he was firing strikes tonight.
TONY ZYCH: Was called into the game with two outs in the bottom of the 8th after the Rafters had taken a 6-5 lead off Orioles LHRP Mike Belfiore, and he struck out the one batter he faced (Blue Jays OF Jake Marisnick) on three pitches (the last one a 97 MPH heater).
A number of Cubs execs (including Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod) were at the game, as were about a half-dozen Instructs Cubs (most of whom were teammates of Javier Baez just six months ago in Extended Spring Training).