Baez belts two homers as Cubs overpower Royals

Baez belts two homers as Cubs overpower Royals

MESA, Ariz. -- The ball was flying out of the park early, as the Cubs' split squad blasted three of their five total home runs in the first inning on Saturday en route to an 8-3 win over the Royals in a Cactus League affair at HoHoKam Park.

David DeJesus belted a leadoff long ball into the Cubs' right-field bullpen. Then with one on and one out, Alfonso Soriano drove a full-count offering from Kansas City starter Bruce Chen to the concourse for a two-run shot.

Javier Baez launched the third round-tripper of the inning -- his third home run on three consecutive pitches -- into the stands down the left-field line for a two-out solo shot to cap the four-run first inning. Baez homered in the seventh inning in an exhibition game against Team Japan on Friday, then knocked the first pitch he saw in the ninth for a walk-off dinger.

Baez kept it going with a first-pitch drive off Chen on Saturday and later belted a two-out solo shot in the fifth, also off Chen.

"I just like hitting the first fastball I see, and sometimes I miss it, and sometimes I hit a homer," Baez said. "They're going to mix it up and I'm just going to be patient."

After taking Chen just short of the warning track in the third, Baez appeared to leave the park with another jaw-dropping two-out solo shot in the fifth. The ball headed out on a trajectory to go over the left-field scoreboard, and there were no confirmed sightings of the ball landing.

"It's unbelievable -- two homers yesterday, two more today -- and bombs. I'm very impressed," Alfonso Soriano said. "He's got a lot of power. Very good defense too. I'm very impressed, because he's only 20 years old. I hope we see him soon in the big leagues. [With] what he's showing at Spring Training, it looks like he's very close."

Baez was a first-round pick for the Cubs in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, and only turned 20 in December. He's played three games in the Rookie league, two at Class A Boise, 57 at Class A Peoria and 23 at Class A Daytona -- combining to his .293 average (91-for-311) with 16 homers and 47 RBIs. He's hitting .324 (11-for-34) with four homers and eight RBIs in 14 Cactus League games, which does not include his two homers on Friday against Japan.

"He's special, obviously that's why he was drafted where he was," said bench coach Jamie Quirk, who managed the split-squad game. "Hopefully he just keeps doing what he's doing and his talents will take him as quickly as he needs to be. He's getting great experience by getting a chance to play all these games in a Major League Spring Training."

Chen lasted five innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and one walk while striking out four. The veteran lefty yielded five home runs, with second baseman Alberto Gonzalez adding to the tally when he opened the fourth with a drive over the left-field fence.

"My body felt good, my arm felt good," Chen said. "I just need to work on making sure I keep the ball down, and make sure I start pitching in so I make the guys a little bit more uncomfortable."

Aaron Crow came on in relief for the Royals, allowing one run on three hits. Crow faced six batters, with each of them hitting balls to center. Rafael Lopez hit a leadoff single up the middle, and Brent Lillibridge and Anthony Rizzo kept the rally going with two-out singles to center. All three outs were fly balls to center.

Cubs starter Hisanori Takahashi had his strongest outing yet, going four innings and yielding just one run on five hits and one walk while striking out one. The only blemish on his line was a leadoff homer from Mike Moustakas in the fourth that made it, 5-1, in favor of the Cubs.

The Royals added runs in the seventh on Chris Getz's single and one more in the eighth on a forceout off the bat of Christian Colon.

Up next for the Cubs: Carlos Villanueva will make his third spring start on Sunday when the Cubs' split squad faces the Rangers in Las Vegas at Cashman Field. The other half of the Chicago roster will travel to Phoenix to face the Athletics. Scott Baker, coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, will make his first spring start. The game in Las Vegas will be on WGN Radio; the game in Phoenix will be on WGN TV. Both games can be seen on MLB.TV.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.