Cubs expected Baez to have offensive issues

Epstein: 'Javy's extraordinarily talented but very raw offensively'

Cubs expected Baez to have offensive issues

MILWAUKEE -- Javier Baez went 4-for-41 with 20 strikeouts on the Cubs' final homestand, and he leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts in September (42). And Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein isn't too surprised.

"It's gone very much as expected," Epstein said Friday of Baez's first two months in the big leagues.

On Friday, Baez looked more comfortable at the plate, collecting three hits, including a pair of RBI singles, in the Cubs' 6-4 win over the Brewers. But he's batting .172 overall.

The infielder was promoted Aug. 5, and he has had a tough time at the plate. The good news for the Cubs is that Baez hasn't carried those struggles onto the field.

"He's played incredible shortstop," Epstein said. "Beyond the tools that he has and the plays that he's made, he's shown a great baseball head on his shoulders and really good instincts, really good focus. He's won the respect of a lot of veterans here with the way he plays the game on the field. That's big, and not to be taken for granted from a 21-year-old.

"Offensively, it's gone as expected," Epstein said. "Javy's extraordinarily talented but very raw offensively. He hasn't quite learned a consistent approach and swings at the pitches he wants to swing at, and he's letting the pitcher dictate the course of the at-bat by not being selective enough. When you do that in the big leagues, it can get ugly in a hurry."

Baez has struggled at the start of every level he's been at professionally, so the Cubs are not surprised. That's part of the reason they wanted to promote him this year. He is expected to be the Cubs' starting second baseman in 2015. Baez has been filling in for injured Starlin Castro at shortstop in September.

"His confidence is high," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Baez. "Just like everyone, he understands he needs to make adjustments and knows he needs to do better."

Renteria is quick to remind everyone that Baez is just 21 years old. Epstein said Baez is aware of what he needs to do, adding that sometimes it just takes an offseason to make those adjustments. Anthony Rizzo and Castro both did that after struggling in 2013; they had All-Star seasons this year.

What's encouraging, Epstein said, is that Baez is open to making adjustments.

"It's like getting comfortable in the big leagues -- you can't just tell someone, 'Get comfortable,'" Epstein said. "He readily admits he'll be more comfortable in the big leagues than he is now.

"Sometimes you have to just experience it for yourself and the light goes on with one swing or one video session or one offseason when you can take a deep breath and come back differently."

Extra bases
• Epstein said Renteria "absolutely" would return next season to manage, but he will announce the status of the entire coaching staff on Tuesday.

"By and large, the coaching staff did a great job this year," Epstein said.

Epstein is completing the third year of his five-year contract with the Cubs, but said he's not thinking about his status, adding "it's really not a concern for me." He did expect to talk to chairman Tom Ricketts over the winter about long-term plans for personnel.

Jacob Turner will start Sunday in place of rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who is being shut down after reaching 183 innings. Hendricks totaled 102 2/3 innings in 17 starts at Triple-A Iowa, and 80 1/3 innings in 13 starts with the Cubs.

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.