It was a classic case of Javy being Manny. After getting a chance to meet Manny Ramirez before taking the field Monday, Javier Baez turned the former big-league star's advice into a huge night at the plate.
The Cubs' infielder went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and fell a triple short of the cycle as Triple-A Iowa used an eight-run fourth inning to trounce Fresno, 9-0, on Monday night at Principal Park.
The 2011 first-round pick fought off a two-strike pitch for an opposite-field double in his first at-bat against Grizzlies starter Dan Straily. He led off the big fourth with a single through the middle and chased Straily from the game with a towering home run over the center-field wall to close out the frame.
Though Baez didn't finish the cycle -- he singled to left to lead off the seventh and walked in the eighth -- I-Cubs hitting coach Brian Harper was quite pleased with the outing.
"I'm seeing Javy really make some commitments to kind of cut down his swing and lessen some of the movement with his lower half and upper half," Harper said. "If anybody's seen Javy play, he has a tendency to overswing.
"I'll joke around with him and tell him he only needs to hit the ball 400 feet instead of 800 feet. He's making a commitment to do that, with two strikes to cut down on his swing, and you can see it in the numbers."
With Ramirez in town, Harper and the larger-than-life Major League veteran spent some time with Baez prior to the game.
"Manny and myself talked to him about doing some things and he took it into the game and did a great job," Harper said.
Baez, who spent 52 games in the Major Leagues last season, was forced to put his hopes of a second callup on hold in early June. The 22-year-old broke a finger on his left hand and missed over a month.
When he returned to the I-Cubs on July 28, Baez worked hard to get back to big leagues.
"I've seen a real willingness to make adjustments and improve his game," Harper said. "He's a super-talented kid defensively and offensively. He's really working and he really wants to be a successful big leaguer, and I see him really improving."
Baez has done more than simply improve his game over the past two weeks. The native of Puerto Rico has battered PCL pitching at a .476 (20-for-42) clip over his last nine games, eight of which have been multi-hit efforts.
"He's enjoying the game, he's having fun," said Harper. "He's a natural leader, even though he's young, defensively and in the dugout and everything. I feel like he's really maturing in a lot of ways in the dugout, on the field, in the batter's box. It's kind of fun to watch."
Between his performance at the plate and the growing proximity of September callups, the Majors have been an unspoken topic for the shortstop and his coach, even though they both know the wait may not be much longer.
"We don't really talk about it, but I know for a fact Javy wants to be successful in the big leagues," said Harper. "I think last year was a big learning curve for him and he knew coming into this year he needed to make some adjustments.
"You know, we talk so much about all these guys, but you've got to remember Javy is only 22 years old. He's a young kid that's really learning how to do a lot of things. I definitely can see him wanting to make the adjustments that will carry him to the next level."
Straily (10-7) was roughed up for eight runs on eight hits while walking two and fanning seven over 3 2/3 frames.
Eric Jokisch (4-3) twirled six scoreless innings for Iowa, allowing one hit while walking two and fanning four.
Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com.