Baez to start in OF in Cubs' Cactus opener

Lineup features Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo; Wood, Hendricks will pitch

Baez to start in OF in Cubs' Cactus opener

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs open the Cactus League season on Thursday against the Brewers, and aren't going to waste time seeing if Javier Baez can play the outfield.

Baez will start in center and bat sixth in the first Spring Training game, to be played in Phoenix. Travis Wood will start and be followed by Kyle Hendricks, and each was expected to throw two innings. Other pitchers on the travel roster include Clayton Richard, Rex Brothers and Spencer Patton.

Kyle Schwarber will lead off and play left, and he will be followed in the lineup by third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, right fielder Jorge Soler, catcher Miguel Montero, Baez, second baseman Tommy La Stella, designated hitter Dan Vogelbach and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki.

"You'll see guys all over the map, you'll see different batting orders," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. "I think we're all eager to start playing a game a little bit."

Baez, who has primarily played shortstop and second base in the Minor Leagues and big leagues, tested center field in Puerto Rico winter ball, making four starts. Outfield instructor Doug Dascenzo spent a few days with Baez to help make the transition.

The Cubs are hoping the move can make Baez more versatile, which would make him more valuable on the roster.

"We were watching him on the main field the other day during batting practice, and he looks like he's done it forever," Maddon said of Baez's outfield play. "He did it in winter ball and we heard nothing but wonderful things about his work in winter ball. If he makes a couple, three great plays, don't be surprised. He's a really good athlete and good baseball player."

Wood opened last season in the Cubs' rotation, then made a successful switch to the bullpen. He, Trevor Cahill, and Adam Warren will each get stretched out this spring.

Hendricks is coming off a season in which he went 8-7 with a 3.95 ERA as the fifth starter.

"I'm excited to get out there tomorrow in a real game against hitters and see how it goes," Hendricks said.

He started tinkering with his mechanics late last year, and it's carried over into this season.

"I now have different cues with my mechanics, different checkpoints, and they've been working well in Spring Training," Hendricks said. "We found that at the end of last year. They're really good cues for me, and simple, and they've been working."

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.