Baez's adjustments earn Maddon's praise

Baez's adjustments earn Maddon's praise

CHICAGO -- Cubs fans may be giddy over Javier Baez's decisive home run in Friday's 1-0 Game 1 win in the National League Division Series, but manager Joe Maddon was very pleased with the infielder's single to right in the fifth inning.

"The base hit to right field was the most encouraging part of his night," Maddon said Saturday.

That's because it showed how Baez has made adjustments with his swing to be more of a contact hitter. He doesn't bring his foot off the ground as much or as high as he did in the past.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 CHC 1, SF 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 8 CHC 5, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 SF 6, CHC, 5 (13) video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 CHC 6, SF 5 video

"When your foot is in the air, your hand is going to do something to compensate," Maddon said. "If you keep your foot on the ground longer or quicker, the hand is ready to [swing] and sooner."

Baez started again Saturday in Game 2, against another right-handed pitcher in Jeff Samardzija.

"He's gotten better and he's hit righties in the past," Maddon said. "We just haven't given him the opportunity."

Baez has rotated at a variety of infield positions, and often is inserted where the Cubs want their best glove.

"He's going to keep getting better," Maddon said. "This is just the beginning for him."

• Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo now keeps two gloves in the dugout just in case he's asked to be a second baseman, in equipment only. Why? He had to change in the third inning of Game 1 of the NLDS.

The Giants had a runner at first, nobody out and pitcher Johnny Cueto at the plate. Rizzo came in on the infield, anticipating a sacrifice, and second baseman Baez was at first. But because Rizzo wasn't at first, he had to switch to a smaller infielder's glove. Why? It's not a clear-cut rule, but depends on one's interpretation.

Rizzo swaps gloves

The Cubs are familiar with different views. On Sept. 28, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle pointed the situation out to the umpires and Rizzo had to change gloves. The ball was bunted to him, and the official scorer ruled a "4-3" play, which meant for that at-bat, Rizzo was considered a second baseman.

On Friday, umpire supervisor Randy Marsh talked to Maddon during batting practice about their interpretation.

"It's a really ambiguous rule," Maddon said Saturday. "It's a semantic rule as far as I can tell. The guy with the first baseman's glove is manning first base, thus he gets to wear that glove, thus the advantage of the glove.

"It's all semantics," he said. "I could argue Rizzo is still the first baseman, but their argument is the guy with that particular glove has to be the closest to the first-base bag. It's OK. Riz is fine with the other glove."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy was familiar with it, and said Dick Williams used to run the play.

David Ross caught Jon Lester in Game 1 and rookie Willson Contreras was behind the plate in Game 2. Who will start Game 3? As of Saturday, Maddon had yet to make up his mind. Miguel Montero, who has worked well with Monday's starter, Jake Arrieta, could get the call against the Giants' Madison Bumgarner.

"With Bumgarner, does it really matter if [your batter is] right-handed or left-handed?" Maddon said. "You try to figure that out as best you can."

Ditka yells 'Play Ball'

• Maddon dined at Mike Ditka's restaurant on Monday night, and the former Bears coach was at Wrigley Field on Friday to take part in the pregame festivities.

"He had a good time," Maddon said. "I don't anticipate he goes out any time to do something like that."

Ditka got a tour of the Cubs' clubhouse and talked about how when he played for the Bears at Wrigley Field, they crammed into a locker room in the left-field corner. Maddon and Ditka grew up in the same area in Pennsylvannia, and they plan on getting together in the winter.

"I feel like I've known him for 100 years," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.