MESA, Ariz. – Javier Baez’s first taste of the big league experience comes with low expectations.
Baez, the Cubs’ 2011 first-round draft pick, is participating in major league camp this year joining the rest of the position players when they officially report Saturday. But making the big league club out of camp already has been ruled out for Baez.
For now, Baez will stay at shortstop and will play there throughout spring. Baez could see limited time at third base or second but only if the Cubs, because of numbers, need someone at the position. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Starlin Castro is their long-term shortstop, which means a permanent position change awaits Baez in the future.
Until then, the Cubs want Baez to soak up the experience of working and playing alongside MLB talent. Epstein said Baez still has significant development ahead of him, and he will likely start the season at High-A Daytona.
“He’s here to get a feel for what camp is all about, see how these guys go about their business,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s nice for the fans to be able to see him. It’s nice for us to see him. But it’s not about him making the major league team. This is about his experience.”
Garza update: If all goes well, starting pitcher Matt Garza could start Opening Day.
Manager Dale Sveum said Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson are under consideration to take the mound for the season opener. Sveum declined to go into any more specifics but noted that the decision on who will get the call on Opening Day will be evaluated throughout spring training and partially will be dependent on matchups.
Garza still is working his way back into top form after an elbow injury ended his season early. He threw 45 pitches Friday with no issues, although he stayed away from throwing pitches with heavy spin.
“The ball is coming out of his hand really well,” Sveum said. “He’s in great shape, great attitude. Everything is looking good right now.”
Hairston officially signed: Less than a week until position players report, the Cubs and outfielder Scott Hairston agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal.
Hairston, 32, appeared in 134 games with the Mets last season and hit .263 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs. Most appealing to the Cubs is his versatility. Hairston played 59 games in left field, 48 in right field and 14 in center field last year. He gives the Cubs another platoon option, especially against left-handed pitchers.
To make room for Hairston on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated speedy outfielder Tony Campana for assignment. The Cubs hope to retain Campana if he clears waivers, but he’d fit well with a playoff contender looking to add speed. He stole 54 bases in 184 game the past two seasons.
“It was a difficult call for us,” Epstein said. “I guess it speaks to the fact that our 40-man roster is starting to have better depth on it. But you add an outfielder, and we preferred not to take a pitcher off at this juncture, so looking at the position player group it seemed to make sense to us to make this procedural move with Tony.”