- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez is closer to playing second or third base in a spring game after several days of morning practice at those positions.
Expect him to start at second before long.
"We're going to make sure when we put him there he's really comfortable and confident he can handle that side of the diamond," manager Rick Renteria said on Tuesday. "I think he's pretty close. It's going to happen, sure."
Baez is a shortstop by trade but with former All-Star Starlin Castro playing the same position the Cubs are preparing Baez for an eventual call-up to the big leagues. He'll start the season at shortstop at Triple-A Iowa but when he makes it to Wrigley Field it could be at second or third.
"We talked about it today," Baez said. "They told me eventually I'm going to play third or second soon. That's what we're working on."
Baez believes the transition to second would be easier for him and that's most likely where he'll see action this spring. Ironically, with Castro out of the lineup with a tight hamstring, Baez could be at second while regular second baseman Darwin Barney plays shortstop.
"Barney was actually a pretty good shortstop in college, and we think we would do a pretty good job with him," Renteria said. "We want to have someone with experience on the other side."
So Barney could help groom his replacement while making himself more valuable as a defensive player at both positions. It's another indication that the Cubs believe Baez is getting close to making it to the major leagues. He has two home runs this spring to go along with a .333 batting average in 18 at-bats. But that's all been at shortstop. If he was struggling in any part of the game the Cubs wouldn't add another layer of learning for him this spring.
"I'm ready for whatever they want me to do," Baez said. "I'm feeling more comfortable there (at second.)"