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Improving Baez goes deep twice for I-Cubs

Chicago infielder collects four hits, four RBIs in rout of Albuquerque
June 3, 2015

A quiet swing is a repeatable swing. And a repeatable swing leads to consistent performance and production.

Javier Baez doesn't have the perfect swing. Not yet, at least. Iowa manager Marty Pevey says the only reason for him to even have a leg kick is to generate power, but he has so much pop in his bat that he doesn't need to complicate his approach with additional motions.

On Tuesday night, Baez removed the leg kick from his game and proved his skipper right by still slugging a fastball so deep there was no doubt it was leaving the yard.

Baez went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs in the Triple-A Iowa Cubs' 9-3 win over the host Albuquerque Isotopes.

"He was quiet at the plate, he had quiet feet and good hitters have quiet feet," said Pevey, who said it was the best performance he's seen out of Baez this year. "His swing was short and compact and he hit a home run to center field. Then just absolutely torched one to left-center that went 460, 470 feet. It was a show to behold."

Baez loaded the bases with an infield single in the first inning and singled to right field in the third. After lining out to center in the fifth, he clubbed a two-run homer to center in the seventh and added a second dinger to left-center with one on and one out in the ninth.

"Both home runs were on fastballs," Pevey said. "The first one, I knew it had a chance. It's 417 out there [to center field] and it goes uphill and [Drew Stubbs] just ran out of room.

"[The second homer] he got rid of his leg kick because the guy was quick to the plate and he had to get his foot down in a hurry. He doesn't do it all the time. Unfortunately, that's something he needs to do more of to get that foot down to keep up to the fastball. We looked at the video right after the game was over, and it was amazing he can generate that much power without picking up the leg. He just picked his foot up and put it down."

It was Baez's second multi-homer game of the season -- he went deep twice against Tacoma on May 24 -- and the eighth of his career. His four hits and four RBIs were season highs. He last recorded four hits in a single game last May 22 for Iowa in Round Rock.

Baez has posted 11 career four-RBI games and eight four-hit contests. His four hits fell one shy of his career high of five, set with Class A Advanced Daytona against Brevard County on June 1, 2013. The shortstop mashed four homers and plated seven runs on a career night for Daytona on June 10, 2013 against Fort Myers.

The shortstop raised his average to a season-high .325 and extended his hit streak to five games. On the current roadtrip through El Paso and Albuquerque, Baez is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with eight RBIs and five runs scored in five games.

"It's just that way sometimes," Pevey said of the hot streak. "They get in a zone and the ball looks bigger. Sometimes getting away from home helps and maybe that's what's happening. Who's to explain how and why a hitter gets hot. I have no idea, but it's all good."

Now in his fifth season in pro ball, Baez is back in the Pacific Coast League for the second consecutive year. He made 104 appearances for Iowa last summer in addition to 52 Major League games in Chicago where he hit .169/.227/.324.

Baez has made 16 starts at shortstop (where he has made nine errors in 97 total chances) and 15 starts at second base (where he has committed two errors in 88 opportunities).

The Cubs made it a focus this offseason to have all of their position players at every level in the Minors see reps at a second position to increase their versatility. There's a chance Iowa will expand this further with Baez.

"He's played shortstop and second base and we've hit ground balls to him at third base over the past four or five days. There's a chance he plays there over the next few weeks," Pevey said. "We have to wait and see. Don't read too much into it. We've been working on it … it's just something about having versatility.

"He's outstanding [defensively]. Where he has the most problems is where most young players do, on routine balls where he loses his concentration because he's so good. Last year when he played shortstop every day in the big leagues, he was unbelievable. When he played second base here four or five days, he was ready. We're talking about a super athletic kid who can be a fine player at second or short at the big league level."

Baez's offense proved more than enough for Iowa starter Donn Roach (6-0), who allowed a run on five hits and a walk while striking out two batters over six innings.

Leadoff hitter Arismendy Alcantara was 3-for-4 with a solo homer, a walk and four RBIs, left fielder Adron Chambers collected four hits, two runs and an RBI and third baseman Christian Villanueva went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer.

"It's a fun team," Pevey said. "A very Joe Maddon team because so many guys can play so many positions and be versatile, and that's important in the National League. Villaneuva got hot when we were at home and Chambers had a death in the family and is starting to swing the bat too. It's nice to see him getting hits and protecting Javy a little bit."

Albuquerque's Aaron Laffey (1-2) surrendered two runs on eight hits over four innings. He recorded three punchouts and issued one free pass, throwing 47 of 67 pitches for strikes. Isotopes first baseman Matt McBride went 3-for-4 and missed hitting for the cycle by a triple.

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