CHICAGO -- Top prospect Javier Baez hit his 31st home run of the season, and 14th with Double-A Tennessee on Friday, a two-run walk-off homer in the ninth. The Cubs have emphasized how they want to take time and let players develop in the Minor Leagues. But could Baez force the issue next spring?
"You don't count any of that out, because we've seen it happen before," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Saturday. "When you have those kind of numbers and power, sometimes you do force the issue. It's not in the plans, right now, but we've all seen it happen."
Baez, ranked No. 1 on MLB.com's list of the Cubs' top 20 prospects, was batting .293 with the Smokies. He batted .274 with 17 home runs and 57 RBIs with Class A Daytona before he was promoted to Tennessee on July 6. Sveum has watched video of Baez, who had an impressive spring with the big league team.
"You see that kind of bat speed once in a while," Sveum said. "I've used Gary Sheffield as that kind of [example]. Even watching him now, it looks like [Baez] has toned down a lot of his movement and hand movement, and his leg lift is a lot slower and calmer than it was in Spring Training -- and even early in the Minor League videos I watched. That's what development and adjusting are about, that's what you want to see -- that you're able to handle strike-to-ball sliders.
"I think, in this last week or so, it seems like, listening to the reports, that's what he's been doing," Sveum said of the shortstop. "It sounds like he's laying off a lot of stuff -- [he's] a lot more calmer, a lot more under control."
At Daytona, Baez batted .296 against left-handed pitchers, and .268 against right-handers; at Tennessee, he's batting .429 against left-handers, .231 against right-handers. Sveum would like to see an improvement against right-handers, especially dealing with offspeed pitches.
"[The strike-to-ball slider] is the million-dollar pitch, and it's not about hitting it, it's about learning how to lay off it and recognize it early enough where you don't swing at it," said Sveum. "That's why Minor Leaguers need the 2,000 at-bats [before coming to the big leagues]."
Castillo wrestling with shadows at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- The Cubs added more 3:05 p.m. CT starts at home this season, and it's made it tough for catcher Welington Castillo.
Because of the late afternoon start, there are more shadows in the later innings at Wrigley Field -- and it's difficult for the backstop to see.
"It's hard to see the ball," Castillo said on Saturday. "You've just got to focus a little bit more, and [not] get distracted. You lose the baseball a little bit, I think -- not just for me, but all the hitters come to me and say, 'I can't see the ball very good.' The umpire told me that it's not just me, it's everybody. We have to play through that."
Does Castillo focus more on how he frames a pitch, knowing the umpire can't see it that well?
"I don't think you can worry about that," Castillo said. "You just have to worry about catching the ball. If you worry about framing the ball, you [will] miss it, and you'll have a lot of passed balls. I just focus on catching the ball."
The pitcher is often in bright sunshine, while the catcher is literally and physically sitting in the dark.
"It's not easy to hit and catch when the shadow is there," Castillo said. "It's dark, and then really bright. You see the ball early, but when it comes to the plate, it's like you lose it sometimes."
It's a good thing the Cubs don't have a knuckleball pitcher on the staff.
"Oh, my God, I can't imagine that," Castillo said, laughing. "That would be really hard because of the movement on the ball."
• Cubs outfielder Brian Bogusevic, who has been rehabbing a strained left hamstring, went 4-for-4 on Friday with the Mesa Rookie League team, and will join Triple-A Iowa to continue his rehab.
Bogusevic, sidelined since July 15, was 10-for-25 (.400) in seven games with Mesa, hitting four doubles and one triple. He also stole three bases.
• Scott Baker will begin his second Minor League rehab stint on Sunday, starting for Class A Daytona. Baker last pitched July 29, and weather delayed his next start. The right-hander is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs hope he is healthy enough to appear in a big league game this year.
In three starts with Class A Kane County, Baker gave up 13 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings, while striking out five. In one start with Daytona, he gave up one earned run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings.
• Arodys Vizcaino, also rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, is to go to Mesa on Wednesday to continue his rehab there.
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.