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Baez hits four homers on historic night

Cubs' No. 1 prospect ties FSL record, also plates seven runs
June 10, 2013

After a solid April and an average May, Javier Baez has exploded out of the gate in the month of June.

Remember those struggles he had in the Florida State League last season? His historic performance Monday evening at Jackie Robinson Ballpark says those teething problems are truly behind him.

Chicago's top prospect went a perfect 4-for-4 with four homers and seven RBIs -- both career highs -- in the Class A Advanced Daytona Cubs' 9-6 win over the visiting Fort Myers Miracle.

He is only the second player in the 94-year history of the Florida State League to go yard four times in the same game. Daytona's Ryan Harvey accomplished the feat in 2006.

"It means a lot that only two people can do that, and hopefully somebody will do it again," Baez told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "You can't come tomorrow and go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. I'm just going to come tomorrow and do the same thing -- just hit the ball hard."

He became the first Minor Leaguer to homer four times in one game since Michael Aubrey did it for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs on May 14, 2011.

"That was one of the highest performances I have ever seen in my baseball career," Daytona hitting coach Mariano Duncan said. "In 2006 when I was a coach for the Dodgers, I saw four different players hit home runs in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres to tie the game. I have been in three World Series and I have won two championships, but I have never seen a performance out of one player like what Javier Baez had.

"I have been in baseball more than 30 years. I played for 20 years. I played in the big leagues, I coached in the big leagues. But I have never seen anything like that. It was something very impressive."'s No. 15 prospect smacked Matt Tomshaw's 2-2 pitch for a two-run homer the opposite way to right-center field with one out in the first inning and he added his second with a solo shot on a 2-0 offering to straight-away center to lead off the third.

In the fifth, the shortstop pulled the first pitch he saw from Adrian Salcedo for a three-run homer to left field, and in the seventh, he hooked another first-pitch fastball just inside the foul pole down the left-field line for his historic fourth roundtripper of the night.

"For Javy to do this, it's pretty special for any player to have that kind of night," said Daytona manager Dave Keller, who was in the stands to see Ryan Harvey's four-homer game when he was a hitting coordinator for the team in 2006. "It was big because he drove in runs when we needed them. He got some good pitches to hit and he took some nice swings.

"His swing seemed a lot more under control tonight. Sometimes he gets too aggressive. Mariano has spent a lot of time with him talking about keeping his balance and not swinging so hard that he can't stay on the ball. He already has tremendous bat speed and he can hit the ball a long way. After that second home run, I was telling Mariano that it was the best swing I have seen him take. It was free and relaxed and he laced that ball. It was the best swing he's taken on a pitch all year."

It was Baez's second career multi-homer game -- he went yard twice on Sept. 2, 2012 in Daytona's 3-2 win over Brevard County. He topped his previous high of six RBIs, set June 1 when he went 5-for-6 with a homer and three doubles in a 14-5 rout of the visiting Manatees.

The 195-pound native of Puerto Rico lifted his average 12 points to .291 and increased his team-best homer tally to 13. He ranks second on the team with 44 RBIs, nine behind slugging first baseman Dustin Geiger.

Selected ninth overall by the Cubs in the 2011 Draft, Baez wasn't exactly slumping to start the year. He hit .262 with five homers and 17 RBIs in April and he batted .258 with three long balls and 12 RBIs in May.

But he's heated up with the temperatures through the first eight games in June. He's 15-for-29 with five homers, five doubles and 15 RBIs during that span.

"He has come a long way," Duncan said. "He had a great Spring Training this year when he hit eight home runs, but at the beginning of the season, he struggled. I've worked with him staying on the middle of the field. When he does that, he can react to the ball inside better.

"He hit four different home runs on four different pitches. The first ball to right-center field was a cutter, the second was a changeup, the third to left-center was a fastball and the last one down the left-field line was a breaking ball. You are going to see Javier Baez in the big leagues for a long time."

Now in his third year of pro ball, Baez -- who was named to the Florida State League's All-Star squad last week -- is building on a strong 2012 campaign that saw him hit 16 homers in 80 games between two levels.

But while Baez flourished in Peoria -- he hit .333 with 12 long balls in 57 games -- he only hit .188 with four homers in 23 FSL games following his promotion to Daytona.

This year, the 20-year-old has maintained his power and speed while lifting his average. He has already set a career high with 17 doubles with more than half the season remaining, and he's on pace to set new personal marks in homers, RBIs, runs scored and walks.

Duncan understands the buzz surrounding Baez.

"He has so much potential, he doesn't even know how good he is. He is very talented, very special. I know why so many people are so high on him."

Daytona starter Zach Cates (6-5) allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits while striking out six batters over six innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.