02/28/2013 4:15 PM ET
Baez primed for more reps in Spring Training
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- With shortstop Starlin Castro sidelined a few days because of a tight hamstring, Cubs top prospect Javier Baez will most likely get more at-bats in Cactus League games.
Baez, 20, has shown impressive bat speed, and he knocked down Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon with a hard-hit ball Wednesday.
"I think I've seen balls hit as hard, but I don't think I've ever seen a ball hit harder," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That was like balls that [Gary] Sheffield used to hit."
The Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Baez batted .333 in 57 games with Class A Peoria last season and hit .188 in 23 games when promoted to Class A Daytona. He still has some growing up to do.
"It's just like any 19-year-old shortstop who has ever played the game; there's a lot of development left," Sveum said of Baez. "A lot of young shortstops, with all the ability, they just have to learn their arm slot, they have to learn which arm slot is best for them. Am I a finesse guy when I throw it to first base? Am I going to power the ball over there?
"It takes some time and game speed to find out what a young player is going to be, what kind of guy is he going to be. Is he going to be an Alan Trammell, where everything is perfect? Is he going to be maybe like Castro, where things aren't exactly prototypical but he makes good throws in an unorthodox way? Or will he be a [Troy] Tulowitzki and do everything on the run?
"When you're on the left side of the field, there's so many things that come into play and so many things you have to have in your tool box with your arm angles that it takes a lot of development before you get the finished project."
Cubs' defense backs Feldman in debut
MESA, Ariz. -- Scott Feldman likes pitching for the Cubs when the defense makes plays like Jorge Soler did in the first inning Thursday.
Soler, starting in right field against the Athletics, showed his strong arm when he threw a perfect strike to get Josh Reddick out at third base as he tried to advance on Brandon Moss' hit.
"It seems like they have some studs, some young guys who are going to be studs," Feldman said of the Cubs' prospects. "That throw [Soler] made from right field is about as good a throw as you can make. Reddick got thrown out there, and he had a look of shock on his face, like, 'You're not supposed to throw me out like that.' It was a good play."
Feldman had a good day in his Cubs debut. He gave up one run and two hits, walked two and struck out two over two innings.
"First time out there, you kind of get the butterflies going again," Feldman said. "It was nice to get that one out of the way. For the most part, I was executing my pitches pretty well. I would've liked to have thrown more breaking balls for a strike, but for the first time out, it was fine."
Feldman had spent his entire career with the Rangers, so he has been spending a lot of time this spring getting to know his teammates.
"It's been fun to get to know a new group of guys," he said. "I think everybody in here has that goal to play in the postseason. Any time everybody has that common goal and works hard to try to achieve it, it's a lot of fun."
Castro sidelined with tightness in hamstring
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will be sidelined two or three days because of tightness in his left hamstring, but he was able to participate in the bunting tournament Thursday.
"He's fine," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Castro, who pulled up as he ran to first base Wednesday and had to leave the game. "It'll be two or three days, but basically it's minimal -- there's more tightness. I don't think there's any pull. It just tightened up on him."
Castro did play catch along the right-field line under the watch of the Cubs' athletic trainers Thursday. He also hit in the batting cages and participated in the bunting tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 with a win over Rafael Lopez.
The Cubs are already thin because of injuries to their infielders. Third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are both sidelined with strained left quads. Sveum said Vitters was slightly ahead of Stewart in their rehabs. Both were injured last Thursday, and both expected to be sidelined 10 to 14 days.
Neither was expected to start hitting for another week, Sveum said.
• Expect to see Junior Lake in the outfield for the Cubs in Cactus League games. Lake, who has primarily played third and short in the Cubs' Minor League system, did play in the outfield in the Dominican Republic winter league.
If the Cubs need a utility player during the season, Lake could be the one.
"He's obviously the guy who has played Double-A and will go to Triple-A, and with those abilities and power, speed, athleticism, he's definitely on the radar," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "If somebody goes down, hopefully he's doing well and progressing at third base and can get called up and get the playing time."
Lake is a little unorthodox in terms of his defensive play at third, which is why the Cubs want him to play more in the Minors and get more experience.
"You can't simulate games by [hitting] ground balls [in practice]," Sveum said. "Guys with that kind of arm don't realize how much time they really have to get rid of a ball because nobody is going to outrun that kind of arm."
Lake batted .312 in 44 games for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican, hitting .560 (15-for-25) against left-handers. He batted .279 last season at Double-A Tennessee.
• Defending champion David DeJesus had to rally to beat Darwin Barney and advance to the Sweet 16 of the Cubs bunting tournament. DeJesus will face Castro in the next round. Also advancing was Casey Coleman, who reached the finals last year. Edwin Jackson was able to hit the 100-point marks on the field on two consecutive bunts to beat Nick Struck and advance.
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.