8/18/2014 11:50 A.M. ET
Baez having a blast while learning on the job
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- In Javier Baez's first 12 games in the big leagues, he struck out 20 times, had 13 hits, including four home runs, and zero walks. That changed on Sunday when the hard-swinging Cubs rookie drew two walks against the Mets.
"I think that was a byproduct of the process of his at-bats," manager Rick Renteria said before Monday's 4-1 win in the series finale. "He was staying to his strengths, seeing the ball in his zone and not being too over anxious.
"Over the long haul, he understands that if he's swinging at pitches that are really unhandable, they're going to keep [throwing them], for sure," Renteria said. "He's 21 years old. He's learning."
Baez did what he does best in the ninth inning on Monday, belting a two-run homer into the second deck in left field. It was his fifth home run, and he is third Cubs player with five homers in his first 14 career games since Kevin Roberson (1993) and Carmelo Martinez (1983) did so.
"I just have to realize there's a guy behind me and they are going to pitch to me so they don't have to pitch to [Anthony] Rizzo," Baez said. "I just have to be patient."
At Triple-A Iowa, Baez batted .260 with 34 walks and 130 strikeouts. His .323 on-base percentage and .510 slugging percentage were good for an .833 OPS.
Arrieta set to keep pitching down the stretch
NEW YORK -- Jake Arrieta missed the first month of the season because of tightness in his right shoulder and he has been monitored all year, but the Cubs have no plans to shut down the right-hander before the regular season ends.
Manager Rick Renteria said before Arrieta's start on Sunday that they were keeping an eye on Arrieta, and wanted to clarify that they do that for all of the pitchers.
"There's no plan in shutting Jake down," Renteria said before Monday's game against the Mets. "That's not something we're considering. We're not shutting him down. We're not looking to shut him down, we haven't talked about shutting him down."
Arrieta has 13 quality starts this season, and threw seven shutout innings on Sunday in a 2-1 win at Citi Field. After the game, he said he'd like to finish the season.
"I want to make every start that I have lined up throughout the end of September," Arrieta said. "If something comes up, I guess that will be addressed. I'd love to stay in the mix and finish out on a high note."
Arrieta struck out nine, and the first eight K's ended on curveballs.
"Jake's stuff is so good that days like [Sunday], the scouting report doesn't even matter," catcher John Baker said.
Most scouting reports have Arrieta throwing his curve about 15 percent of the time.
"He threw more [Sunday]," Baker said on Monday. "Against the last batter he faced [Matt den Dekker], I kept calling curveballs so maybe we could strike him out and get a 10th strikeout.
"That's how fun the game was -- you're trying to call the game to strike somebody out instead of trying to get them to put the ball in play on three pitches or less, which is how I usually call a game," Baker said. "That breaking ball -- it was like he was throwing Wiffle balls up there. I felt bad for the opposing hitters because that's something you don't usually see is somebody throwing an 82-mile-an-hour curveball that's that big."
Arrieta's last strikeout in the sixth came on a fastball.
"He struck out [Daniel] Murphy looking on the fastball because we thought he was looking for a curveball at that point," Baker said.
Alcantara remains leadoff candidate for Cubs
NEW YORK -- Arismendy Alcantara has struggled in the leadoff spot, but he was back at the top of the Cubs' lineup on Monday against the Mets.
"I think [Alcantara] fits the leadoff profile," manager Rick Renteria said on Monday. "He is a good candidate. His numbers may not be what everybody wants to see in terms of production but he is a leadoff candidate."
In eight games, Alcantara was 8-for-39 batting first. He was needed there because Chris Coghlan has been batting a sore left big toe.
Another option was Matt Szczur, who called up to the big leagues on Sunday. Szczur made his first start on Monday at Citi Field.
"We've been talking about getting [Alcantara] back into that slot because we want him to get comfortable there because in the end, we see him as a potential leadoff guy," Renteria said. "He's got a history of getting on base. There are a lot of qualities that allow you to view him as a potential leadoff candidate."
Alcantara actually has been having a tough time in the No. 6 spot in the lineup as big league pitchers continue to throw the rookie more offspeed pitches. He was batting .206 in 16 games this month.
• The Cubs have yet to determine the next step for Felix Doubront, who made his second rehab start on Sunday for Triple-A Iowa.
Doubront was placed on the disabled list with a strained left calf after being acquired from the Red Sox on July 30. On Sunday, he gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings in Iowa's 3-2 loss to Salt Lake.
• The Cubs will celebrate the 1990s during the next homestand, which begins on Tuesday. On Sunday, the Cubs will wear throwback uniforms from 1994 with "Cubs" written in red script across the front of the jersey. The visiting Orioles will wear a throwback road uniform from 1994 as well.
Among the promotional items on this homestand are a floppy hat Tuesday night and a Kerry Wood 20-strikeout Bobblehead on Friday. On Saturday, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Wrigley Field Tote Bag, and on Sunday, the first 5,000 children 13-and-under will receive a '90s Throwback "Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby."
The Cubs also will host Star Wars Night on Wednesday. Every ticket holder for this special event will receive an exclusive "Jedi Rizzo" bobblehead, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.
The promotions are part of Wrigley Field's season-long 100th anniversary celebration.
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.