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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Prospect Javier Baez's HR travels 452 feet

By Jesse Rogers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez did it again, this time hitting a ball the farthest -- by his own estimation -- of his young career.

With Colorado Rockies reliever Rob Scahill on the mound in the eighth inning of an eventual Cubs 9-6 loss on Wednesday night, Baez crushed a 2-2 pitch out to dead center field.

The ball landed in the second deck of the hitting backdrop behind the center-field wall listed at 410 feet. ESPN Stats & Information estimates the home run carried 452 feet. Earlier this spring Baez indicated the longest home run he ever hit was about 440 feet in high school.

It was the fifth home run in Cactus League play for the Cubs’ top pick of 2011, each seemingly “louder” and longer than the previous one.

He also homered Tuesday night in a Cubs loss to the Texas Rangers. Four of his five home runs have gone out to right field or centerfield, as going the opposite direction has been a goal of his this spring. Wednesday’s home run tied Baez for the lead among all hitters.

Unless the Cubs have a last-minute change of mind, Baez will start the season at Triple-A Iowa, most likely playing both shortstop and second base. He played second for the first time since high school on Monday and Tuesday before switching back to shortstop as a late-inning replacement on Wednesday.

Starlin Castro is the starting shortstop for the team, so Baez is moving around the diamond as he prepares to make his major league debut, perhaps later this season.

Teammates and opponents have marveled at his batting practice and in-game home runs. His swing has been compared with former slugger Gary Sheffield, and his plate awareness keeps getting better.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria has applauded his ability to adjust from at-bat to at-bat -- something he wasn’t able to do a season ago.

The front office hasn’t spoken about the idea of possibly changing gears and allowing Baez to break camp with the team, so until further notice he’s headed back to the minors sometime next week.