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Levine: Javier Baez Aims For Quick Return, Mulls Best Manner To Slide In

By Bruce Levine--

MESA, Ariz. (CBS) -- Cubs super-sub Javier Baez has been cleared for hitting and other baseball-related drills as he nurses a jammed left thumb that will have him on the 15-day disabled list when the regular season starts Monday. Baez suffered the injury on a head-first slide.

Baez will stay at the team's complex in Mesa and prepare for the Cubs to return to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks after a season-opening series against the Angels on Monday and Tuesday.

"My hand feels fine," Baez said Wednesday. "I am mad about not making it for my first Opening Day. I feel good and have hit two days in a row. When the team comes back, I will be ready."

The 23-year-old Baez has had trouble with hand injuries because of head-first slides in two straight seasons now. He broke a finger on his left hand last year on a head-first steal attempt and missed six weeks.

"I have slid that way for a while," Baez said. "I used to slide feet first, but I had trouble tearing up my upper leg. I am not sure what the answer is."

Baez is eligible to come off the DL before Chicago's game at Arizona on April 9.

"We are all on the same page," Baez said when asked if he tried to convince the brass to keep him on the Opening Day roster. "We don't want to rush anything. We're taking things step by step. I have not seen any live pitching in a week.I  need this week to get ready."

Baez is being groomed this season to play the outfield as well as the infield. He came up as a middle infielder and also can play third base without trouble, and he got outfield experience during winter ball this past offseason.

"I enjoy playing the game from every position that I have been playing," Baez said. "(Manager Joe Maddon) said they want me to play some left field now too.

"We will see how it works out."

Maddon has liked Baez since he first saw him in spring 2015. Correcting the head-first slide is on the list of topics to address with Baez for the veteran manager.

"Javy is a perfect example of a young man who needs a little more self-awareness in his game," Maddon said. "I love instincts, but there are certain times you must be more self-aware to adjust. What do you like to do? What is your comfort zone before you slide? We can encourage (feet first), but what are you going to do in the heat of the game? I can't say he will slide feet first all of the time."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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