8/8/2014 11:27 P.M. ET
Poised Baez keeps Wrigley debut in perspective
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Javier Baez took his first game as a Cubs player at Wrigley Field in stride, from his first batting practice at the Friendly Confines through the last of his four strikeouts.
After singling and scoring in the first inning of the Cubs' 4-3 loss Friday in 10 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays, Baez whiffed four straight times to conclude his day.
"It was nothing different," Baez said. "It was just [the] same thing. I wasn't nervous or anything. I was just not being patient at the plate and swinging at bad pitches."
Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, he struck out with no outs and a runner on second. Trailing 4-3 with one out in the 10th, Baez struck out on a swing that brought him to one knee and nearly knocked him over. Baez wasn't even all that happy with his single.
"That hit, [the pitch] wasn't even over the plate," he said. "I got jammed, broken bat, and it was just the ball went through. But they didn't throw many pitches over the plate."
Prior to the game, Baez stuck to his regular routine of hitting in the batting cages before taking his first live batting practice on the field. He answered a multitude of questions from a large group of reporters. The 21-year-old even got a chuckle out of signs held by fans celebrating his arrival on the scene in the Windy City.
"I just laugh," Baez said when asked about a sign pronouncing the start of big things to come for the Cubs. "I just came up, and we've still got guys coming up."
How does such a heralded prospect keep his focus amid a city full of Cubs fans starved for any signs of hope?
"I don't know," Baez said before the game. "I just make [dealing with the hype] look easy, I guess."
As he strode to the plate for his first at-bat, Cubs fans gave him a standing ovation. Not even that seemed to affect him. Asked if he was expecting that kind of reaction, Baez hunched his shoulders.
"Yeah, for sure, why not?" he said.
After it was pointed out how much Cubs fans seem to like him, Baez replied, "Yeah, they do ... and I like them, too."
As for on-field adjustments, he's getting advice from teammates like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who've already lived up to the high expectations. Their main advice to Baez: Keep doing what you've done all along. It's the same thing that helped Baez grind through a deep slump to start the season and eventually earn his promotion from Triple-A to the Major Leagues on Tuesday in Colorado.
"I struggled a long time and it took forever to get better, but I didn't stop doing my routines and doing my early work," Baez said. "I was doing everything like I usually do."
Baez estimated that he'd received about 500 calls and texts since the announcement of his callup, but he hasn't worried about responding just yet. He doesn't have time right now, because his routine is pretty jam-packed already.
"He's a pretty calm individual," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I don't think it's really affecting him too much. I think he's happy to be here, obviously, but he also has a sense that he belongs. So I think he'll continue to make adjustments and improve and hopefully continue to have success."
Baez did have time to respond to one text. After hitting two home runs in the series finale at Coors Field on Thursday, he got a text from Manny Ramirez -- who'd helped him with the finer points of hitting at Iowa. Ramirez is a player/coach there, and Baez said he learned a lot about his approach at the plate from the former All-Star.
"He texted me [and] he was like, 'You hit two home runs, but I hit one and I went dead center on you,'" Baez said.
Epstein: Bryant will stay in Minors this season
CHICAGO -- Just because the arrival of Javier Baez happened earlier than most anticipated, don't assume third baseman Kris Bryant will make his Major League debut this season.
Bryant continues to dominate Triple-A pitching at Iowa, but Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says Bryant won't be coming to Chicago this season unless some highly unlikely things happen in the next couple of months.
"Nothing's changed," Epstein said. "I still don't foresee a scenario where Kris would get called up this year. First full professional season, it would really take extraordinary circumstances to call up anybody in his first full professional season. I think Kris is doing extraordinary things, but for us to consider calling somebody up in his first full pro season, I think not only would the player have to be doing extraordinary things, but there would have to be unique circumstances with the big league team, too, where we were in a pennant race and really needed that boost."
The Cubs aren't anywhere near competing for a pennant or even a Wild Card spot, so the odds of seeing Bryant in Chicago prior to next season are very slim. Some have speculated it has more to do with the Cubs not wanting to start the clock on Bryant's service time during a non-competitive season. Epstein says otherwise.
"It's not business," Epstein said Friday afternoon, before Baez's Wrigley Field debut. "It's just ... in your first full professional season, there's enough that you have to deal with without making your big league debut, that that's the proper thing for his development. He's also still got some developmental issues he's working on, from his defense to continuing to work on his approach in certain parts of the strike zone."
Bryant, who's hitting .323 for Iowa, hit his 37th homer between Double-A and Triple-A on Thursday. That tied Rangers prospect Joey Gallo for the most homers in the Minors.
"He's doing a phenomenal job, but I think people forget because of his success that he's had, he was just drafted 14 months ago," Epstein said of Bryant. "When he reaches the end of the season, he should be awfully proud and we'll be awfully proud of him, and there will be a lot to go home and reflect on already. It's not necessary for someone in his first pro season to make it all the way to the big leagues for it to be a thoroughly successful development year."
• Left-handed starter Felix Doubront, who's on the 15-day disabled list with a calf strain, was happy with how he felt coming out of an 88-pitch side session Wednesday. The next step will be a bullpen session Saturday followed possibly by a rehab assignment next week.
"It was very good," Doubront said. "I got after it and tried to do a [simulated] game, like getting hitters, like a game. Pretty much I got after it."
• Former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who selected Baez in his last year as Cubs GM, was spotted at Wrigley Field on Friday to watch his home debut.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.