DENVER -- Javier Baez was treated like a superstar from the moment he was drafted as the Chicago Cubs’ first-round pick in 2011. But he rarely took the time to bask in it.
He was too busy hounding his teammates and coaches for tips, trying to perfect his “always big, always hard” swing late into the night at minor league batting cages, and listening to every word player-coach Manny Ramirez told him.
No really, he did.
“I learn everything I can,” said Baez, who was called up to "the show" on Tuesday with the Cubs visiting the only NL team sporting more losses than them, the Colorado Rockies. “I just did what I needed to do.”
Baez stayed confident that he was doing the right things all along, despite criticism and the fact his game was suffering from an identity crisis.
Baez, the same guy who dominated Double-A headlines and pitchers alike in 2013, batted .178 in his opening act in Triple-A Iowa. Because of it, according to ESPN Insider Christopher Crawford, more than one scout had declared Baez’s season as good as dead.
That passed, though, and so did Baez’s biggest slump of his short career. And after a 33.7 strikeout rate in his first 66 games in Triple-A, Baez began avoiding pitches in the dirt and trimmed his K rate to 23.8.
When asked about it Tuesday, he thanked Ramirez for his improved focus at the plate, saying the 41-year-old spent a lot of time with him working on his approach.
“He would just talk about my approach and how the pitchers were ... pitching around some to me and some of the other guys,” Baez said. “That’s why I’m taking more pitches and swinging at pitches in the zone.”
Baez hit .260 with 24 doubles and 23 home runs in 104 games in Triple-A and seemed to fit well at second base after he transplanted there three weeks ago -- all before he was woken up in his hotel room in Omaha with news of his promotion.
Tuesday, in the visitors locker room, Baez -- who will bat second and play second base against the Rockies -- sat at a table and seemed at ease conversing with the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who took him out for a steak dinner following the big news.
"He’ll be in the right place," Rizzo said. "He’s a good kid. And now that he’s here, there’s no up. He knows that. This is it. This is the Show, so he deserves to be in it, and hopefully this transition is smooth for him."
Right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa finished his 30-day minor league rehabilitation assignment and returned to the Cubs' clubhouse on Tuesday in Colorado. Fujikawa, who has not been declared active as of yet, is trying to return to the majors after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2013.
"He said he is full-ready to go," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday.