Cubs news and notes: Báez playing his game, Williams spins a gem and Mills’ history
Javy Báez understands all the parallels between himself and Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
On the day Lindor’s $341 million deal became official, Báez didn’t bother comparing himself to his good friend.
The two were set to become free agents this winter, along with Los Angeles’ Corey Seager, Colorado’s Trevor Story and Houston’s Carlos Correa in the most epic shortstop class baseball has ever seen. Báez called Lindor the “most complete shortstop” of that group and acknowledged how the mega contract helps set the market for the rest of the group.
Báez also demonstrated a clear understanding of where he sits in the current environment, seven months from free agency.
“They know me by the defense,” he said. “I gotta get better in my offense. I’m one of the top [shortstops], I’m just gonna say that. I’m one of the top. Obviously I care about being the best but I just want to play my game and let everybody see it.”
He went out and played his game Monday night, smacking a home run into the bleachers in right field. The Cubs crushed three homers in the 4th inning against the Brewers en route to a 5-3 win.
Báez believes all 30 teams in Major League Baseball know what he’s capable of at his peak. Three years ago, he finished as the runner-up in National League MVP voting and was on his way to another big season before a thumb injury cost him the final month of 2019.
2020 was tough for all involved, but Báez felt the impact as much as anybody and he’s been very open about how the lack of in-game video and fans affected him.
As his final year under contract begins in earnest, Báez didn’t set a deadline for extension negotiations with the Cubs front office. But his focus is firmly on baseball and getting back to the player he knows he can be.
“I really don’t want to offend anybody but I don’t have to show anything to anyone,” he said. “I just gotta play my game. Once I’m on my peak and I can do everything and I’m hitting the balls in the strike zone, I’ll be a different player. I’m trying to do that and just play my game.”
What a way to endear yourself to a new fanbase.
In his Cubs debut, Trevor Williams took a perfect game into the 6th inning before giving up a ground ball that scooted through the shift for a single. The Brewers loaded the bases that inning but Williams escaped the jam on a double play to leave former NL MVP Christian Yelich in the on-deck circle:
A pitchers best friend! pic.twitter.com/KRRaZcdaGV— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 6, 2021
That was Williams’ dad, Richard, who made an appearance at the tail end of the video. Richard grew up a Cubs fan and spent months eagerly anticipating Monday’s debut after his son signed with the team in February.
“I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time, really from the day there was interest, that there was gonna be an opportunity to put on a Cubs uniform,” Williams said. “Just a really special moment for my family and I. We’re thankful that they were able to be in the stands to celebrate it. It wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t in the stands.
“To feel the energy too from all the fans at Wrigley was incredible. It’s something that I’m gonna remember and I’m gonna cherish and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to for the rest of the season.”
Williams induced a whopping 17 swings-and-misses as he dominated the Brewers lineup throughout the game. He spun five pitches for strikes to keep the opposing hitters guessing.
Up until this season, the 28-year-old had spent his entire career with the Pirates and represents an under-the-radar addition to this Cubs rotation.
Mills’ entry into MLB history books
Alec Mills will be immortalized forever with his no-hitter against the Brewers in Milwaukee last September.
But his history-making run against the NL Central opponent doesn’t stop there. He pitched a clean 9th inning Monday to pick up a save and add another chapter to his dominance over the Brewers.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Mills became one of the only pitchers in MLB history to record a save and a no-hitter against the same team in his career (since saves became an officials tat in 1969). Mills joins the ranks of Derek Lowe, Jose Jimenez and Kenny Rogers — among others — in the prestigious class.
A few hours before Monday’s game against the Brewers, the Cubs pulled off a minor trade when they sent James Norwood to the Padres in exchange for right-handed pitcher Dauris Valdez.
Norwood was designated for assignment just before Opening Day as the Cubs needed to clear room on the roster for backup catcher Tony Wolters.
Valdez is an intriguing arm. He stands 6-foot-8, 254 pounds and can dial it up to triple digits with his fastball:
Looking into obscure Rule 5 eligible players because why not. So here's a thread on SD RHP Dauris Valdez. Listed 6'8" 254. Big velo. Paints 99 MPH on stadium gun to get Kelenic looking. pic.twitter.com/PCEvgawORD— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) December 9, 2020
The 25-year-old has not pitched above the Double-A level and owns a career 3.97 ERA in 122 minor-league games while working almost exclusively as a reliever. He has 245 strikeouts in 199.1 innings but he’s also walked 83 batters and thrown an incredible 54 wild pitches.
The Cubs have found success turning Padres minor leaguers into useful relievers (Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck and maybe Trevor Megill down the line). They’ll give it another shot with Valdez.
Speaking of Wick, he’s on the path back to Chicago after a troublesome oblique/intercostal injury. He is still on a throwing program in Arizona.
“Looks really good,” David Ross said. “All the reports I’m getting are good.”
The Cubs don’t yet have a timeline for when Wick will head to the alternate site in South Bend to face live hitters in advance of his season debut.
Meanwhile, veteran catcher Austin Romine arrived in South Bend Monday as he recovers from a right knee sprain.