He left Sunday’s game after bruising his right heel then came off the bench Tuesday to deliver a game-winning hit.
After his night of one-pitch wonderment, Cubs shortstop returned to the Cubs lineup Wednesday for the first time since leaving Sunday’s game because of a bruised heel.
Baez came off the bench with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Tuesday to drive the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off hit.
After testing the heel in afternoon drills Wednesday, he was cleared to start – without apparent restrictions, manager Joe Maddon said.
“If he’s feeling something we may have to deviate from that, but as of right now I think he’s fine to go,” Maddon said.
Baez had a precautionary MRI Tuesday, revealing no structural damage.
Mix and mash?
Maddon said the reports on Phillies lefty starter Cole Irvin – a rookie making his third start – looked favorable for lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber so he kept his new leadoff man right where he’d been since Thursday.
Schwarber lined a double off the basket in right field leading off the first – missing a home run by inches. And he singled leading off the third, then scored.
“Overall, I still like what he’s doing at the plate, and if it’s a lefty that he’s amenable to, I’d rather just do it this way,” Maddon said. “And if he’s not, then just don’t play him.”
That’s when Albert Almora Jr. could return to the leadoff role for a start or two. Maddon also said he likes Almora’s contact bat just behind the top five in the order – with 2-through-4 taking .362 or better on-base percentages into Wednesday’s game.
Contact bat? Almora’s two-out grand slam in the fifth — his first career grand slam — broke a 3-3 tie Wednesday and knocked Irvin out of the game.
The Strop dope
Right-hander Pedro Strop, the Cubs’ de facto closer this year with Brandon Morrow (elbow) out, threw a second 25-pitch bullpen session Wednesday on his way back from a hamstring injury.
The Cubs say the session went especially well, and Strop is expected to throw another bullpen during the weekend series against the Reds, after which a decision could be made on where to have him make a brief minor-league rehab assignment.
That could put Strop on a path to return by the next homestand in early June – if not next weekend’s series at St. Louis.
Before the game, the Cubs put left-hander Xavier Cedeno on the 10-day injured list because of left wrist inflammation, the same injury that wiped out his spring training.
He allowed four hits and three walks in five appearances (two innings).
Right-hander Rowan Wick, who made his 10-game big-league debut with the Padres last year, was recalled from Class AAA to join the Cubs’ pen. He had a 2.84 in 19 innings for Iowa.
Notes: Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect until a series of injuries and setbacks over the past year, pitched a gem for five innings for Class AAA Iowa in his third start back Wednesday: three hits, one run, five strikeouts, no walks, 65 pitches. … A few days after the Cubs claimed struggling minor-league right-hander Chandler Shepherd off waivers, they were unable to slip him through waivers and off the 40-man roster – the Orioles claiming Shepherd Wednesday. …Cubs starter Cole Hamels on Wednesday became the 24th active pitcher to make starts against all 30 big-league teams when he faced his former Phillies team for the first time. The last pitcher to accomplish that? Jake Arrieta for the Phillies, against the Cubs on Monday.