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Cubs give Baez crash course in big league adversity

Cubs give Baez crash course in big league adversity play video for Cubs give Baez crash course in big league adversity

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez found out in one day just how much he still has to learn.

One of the Cubs' top prospects, Baez played in an early Wednesday "B" game against the Rangers and then went 0-for-3 in Chicago's Cactus League game in Surprise that afternoon. He saw a lot of different pitchers throwing at a variety of arm angles.

"Some were over here," he said, pointing to his ankles. "The other one was here [in the middle], and another one was over the top. It was kind of hard to hit the ball."

It was a smorgasbord of deliveries.

"They got a little taste of everything to understand what 162 games of Major League pitching is all about," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Baez and the other young right-handed hitters who played in both games. "That's where you have to evaluate yourself as a player, like maybe, 'Whoa, I might have to adjust some things to hit this kind of pitching 162 days.'"

It's a good lesson.

"You've got to get used to that," Baez said, "because in the big leagues, you're going to see someone different every day."

And that's why the Cubs are determined to give Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and other top prospects time. The trio of potential impact players may not be in the big leagues until 2015. It's hard for Cubs fans to wait that long, but it may be necessary.

"Those guys faced what Major League hitters have to face on a nightly basis in the big leagues," Sveum said. "That's what I mean about a little eye opening to understand -- whether it's, 'Oh, man, I don't think my approach is going to quite work against this kind of stuff every night. I might have to make an adjustment.'"

Baez, 20, could check out video of the pitchers and watch it on his iPad, but seeing it on the small screen vs. live are two completely different things.

"This is what I'm talking about development and why people need 1,500 to 2,000 at-bats," Sveum said. "You face these guys and you're like, 'Wow, that guy is going to pitch in the big leagues, that's nasty stuff.'

"Over the course of 2,000 Minor League at-bats, now they've gone through a whole lot of different types of pitching. They've faced the left-handers who have velocity, you have left-handers who have cutters, you have right-handers who drop down. You face enough right-handers who drop down, you face enough three-quarter right-handers, you face enough guys with wipe out sliders, and know the difference to where that's the reality of the big leagues on an everyday basis."

Experience. There's no substitute. Baez couldn't remember facing too many side arm pitchers in his brief Minor League career, which so far, has consisted of 311 at-bats over 85 games since he signed with the Cubs, who made him their No. 1 pick in 2011.

How many fastballs did Baez see against the Rangers?

"I think I got three fastballs all day," he said. "You've just got to be patient and get a good pitch to hit."

And how many sidearm pitchers had he faced in the Minors?

"Not too many," Baez said. "That day, I faced three of them, and it was pretty hard."

He may have seen more sidearm deliveries in two games against the Rangers than he will in a season in the Minors.

"That's why when you get the 1,500-2,000 at-bats, now you've seen those guys," Sveum said. "You might have 30 at-bats, 40 at-bats off sidearm guys in those at-bats, opposed to a guy who gets rushed to the big leagues and he hasn't hardly seen any sidearm righties or that many wipeout sliders. Once you get 2,000 at-bats, you've seen a lot of stuff by then."

He'll work on developing his patience in the Minor Leagues this year and most likely 2014, too. Sveum, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer all have stressed the need to be patient with the young talent.

This is Baez's first big league camp. So far, he's 7-for-22 in 10 games with a home run, and he will start Saturday against the Indians at HoHoKam Stadium.

Baez's locker is near that of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, and the two have talked about what it's like in the big leagues.

"I asked him if it was easy to be in the big leagues and he said, 'Just don't get comfortable up there,'" Baez said. "You've just got to keep working hard and keep doing what you were doing before you were there."

That's good advice.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }