Role not set, Baez gets in outfield reps

23-year-old working to become a more versatile player

Role not set, Baez gets in outfield reps

MESA, Ariz. -- After taking a round of batting practice on Tuesday, Javier Baez joined Albert Almora, Shawon Dunston Jr. and Kyle Schwarber for some outfield drills with Cubs Minor League roving instructor Doug Dascenzo. Does this mean Baez, who at one time was projected as the starting second baseman, is an outfielder now?

"I don't know," Baez said, smiling. "I guess we have to wait until the games start to see. I'm pretty sure I'll be rotating."

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Dascenzo, who worked with Baez in Puerto Rico this winter, then walked by. Is Baez an outfielder?

"He was just a minute ago," Dascenzo said.

Jason Heyward is expected to be the Cubs' starting center fielder on Opening Day, but Baez is getting a chance to develop into a versatile Ben Zobrist-type player who can sub or start anywhere on the diamond.

"We're just getting work in to see how everything is," Baez said of the outfield drills. "I feel really good. I've been taking ground balls, too, so I'm ready for whatever."

In the Puerto Rican Winter League, Baez, 23, primarily played second base, but he made four starts in center field. With the Cubs, he's played second, short and third. Manager Joe Maddon has said he thinks Baez could play anywhere, and even catch if needed.

Baez's diving stop

It's different in the outfield.

"It's a little chill back there," Baez said.

With Zobrist added to play second and Addison Russell at short, Baez needs to figure out some way to get at-bats. He does like the middle infield.

"You have to stay active [at second or short]," he said. "Every time the ball is hit, you've got to move somewhere. In center field, you still have to move, but not as much."

Baez's other goal this season is to stay healthy. He missed one month last year following the death of his younger sister, then was sidelined another month after injuring his hand during a slide. He split the offseason between Puerto Rico and Florida, training with his brother.

While Cubs fans marvel at Baez's defensive skills and his home run power, which he showed in Game 4 of the National League Division Series with a three-run blast, they also keep track of his strikeouts. In 2014, he swung and missed at a nearly 44 percent rate and finished with 95 K's over 213 at-bats in 52 games. Last season, his swing-and-miss rate in 28 games with the Cubs was 32.9 percent.

"That's going to change soon," Baez said.

Baez's three-run homer

Is there something he's working on?

"I'm just making my adjustments now," Baez said. "I feel like I've been doing good."

Good enough to get a look in center, that's for sure.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.