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).      

Recent comments

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  • deno ended the season well even though ajax heavily cut into a lot of his chances to play. it's either him or ajax. i'm a bit partial to deno, but whatever...at least ajax isn't hitting 2nd.

  • Agreed. And, with Hendricks on the mound, Cubs will probably need to score some runs to win -- why not start Soler for his bat and bring in Ajax for defense later?

    NEVER MIND....just re-read the lineup.

  • If the Cubs have the lead in the 8th, who pitches? Rodney? Travis? Yikes.

  • The Cubs had some good runs and nice winning streaks that propelled them to the playoffs. Austin Jackson wasn't part of that. I don't quite understand what it is about Jackson that they are so enamored with.

  • I think the strike zone was very inconsistent, but it's hard to blame the loss on the ump. They had chances and mistake pitches and just couldn't cash in. Lackey ran the ball inside and outside very effectively.

  • Correct. Castro 5th, AJax 6th; I'll edit my lineup post to fix this.

  • Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, Castro, AJax, Montero, Hendricks, Russell

  • if he put ajax 1st/2nd in the f'n playoffs he deserves to lose his nearly sure-thing MOY award to terry collins.

  • I believe Castro batting fifth, Ajax (LF) sixth

  • Maddon did not listen to me yesterday re Strop, or EricS on Schwarbs today.

    Wtf is up w/that?!

  • Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...

  • I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.

  • Awesome stuff, Phil.

  • listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.

    That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.

  • it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
    should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?

    sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.

  • HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).  

    Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.