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Prospect Baez ready to show improved defense

Prospect Baez ready to show improved defense

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez was one of the early birds in Cubs camp on Monday, arriving one day before position players have to report. The Cubs have said he'll open at Triple-A Iowa, and the highly touted shortstop isn't putting a timetable on when he's going to get to the big leagues.

"I'm still young and still learning how to play the game," Baez, ranked No. 7 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, said. "I'm going to take my time."

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Last spring, Baez batted .298 (14-for-47) and hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs in 17 Cactus League games, and hit two more homers in an exhibition game against Japan. Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro led the Cubs in spring homers with five each.

For the regular season, Baez, 21, hit 37 home runs and 34 doubles and drove in 111 runs in 130 games for Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, batting .282. He was named the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year. If there's an area to concentrate on, it's his defense. Baez made 44 errors combined.

Could he make the big league team out of spring camp?

"I might make it, I might not," he said. "I'm going to take it day by day and see what's going on."

The Cubs may test Baez at second and third this spring as well as have him play short. After a winter of workouts in Jacksonville, Fla., with his former high-school team, he's ready to get going.

"I'm just going to do my job and try to do what I did last year and [reduce] my errors," he said.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria will talk to Baez about the possibility of playing some second base or third base this spring.

"You never want to remove a shortstop from shortstop," Renteria said. "So if we have the luxury of having Starlin [Castro] at the Major League level and [Baez] at Triple-A shortstop, why wouldn't we do that? [Baez] is a guy who has impressed everybody and he has some skill and we want him to continue to improve and mature and be the player we hope he will become in the end."

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.

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