When will the Cubs call up Kris Bryant to join Javier Baez?

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DENVER – Yes, Theo Epstein sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but that doesn’t mean the prospects are getting an E-Z Pass to the big leagues.

Who’s next? When’s Kris Bryant getting here? What about Jorge Soler? That’s what players, Cubs fans and the Chicago media wondered after Javier Baez got called up from Triple-A Iowa.

The president of baseball operations didn’t want to go there, dialing into a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon to downplay expectations for Baez, and not broadcast this as the start of something.

“It’s just a promotion of a very talented prospect who’s had an outstanding development year,” Epstein said. “I don’t believe in making grand pronouncements as an organization or making statements. I think we want the talent, and ultimately the performance of our players, to speak for themselves.

[MORE CUBS: Castro thinks Baez can make immediate impact]

“So I’m not going to get into what this means or what this signifies, other than it’s the right step for Javy’s development. And there are others behind him who – at the appropriate time – will follow.”

Insiders say Bryant won’t be called up until sometime after Opening Day 2015. The Cubs won’t want to start the free-agency clock for a Scott Boras client.

“He doesn’t need to do much more,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “But this game is a business, and everyone needs to remember that.”

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez leads tidal wave of prospects about to hit Cubs]

Bryant is a polished, mature hitter who’s generated 36 homers and 94 RBI through 114 games split between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa this season. The Cubs knew the third baseman would be on the fast track after drafting him No. 2 overall out of the University of San Diego last year and then watching him emerge as the Arizona Fall League’s MVP.

“It’s his first year in the minor leagues, and he’s done really well,” Rizzo said. “From what I’ve seen, he’s handled himself really well, so just keep getting better. You never know. You never know what can happen.”

Soler’s in a different position because he’s already on the 40-man roster with a $30 million major-league contract. The Cuban outfielder has put up a 1.078 OPS through his first 14 games at Iowa and is expected to be a September call-up.

[MORE CUBS: The future is now as Cubs call up Javier Baez]

“They bring those guys up right now, and next year we’ll have a really young team,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “We can be together, and we can prove it, because we know we got a lot of talent. We got players that can play at this level.”

Epstein’s hope-and-change message isn’t all talk. The Cubs have two 24-year-old All-Stars in Castro and Rizzo, Arismendy Alcantara and Baez at the top of the lineup and a farm system ESPN recently ranked as the best in baseball.

“We’ll continue to add potential impact talent to our big-league club,” Epstein said. “That’s ultimately what it’s all about. We’re not here to top the standings of the prospect rankings. We want to top the National League Central standings, and ultimately have a lot of opportunity in October and a lot of success in October.

“So this is nothing but an appropriate promotion for a player who’s earned it. And we’ll see what the future brings.”

But with this collection of young talent, and the financial flexibility to go shopping for big-ticket items this winter, the Cubs can see the future isn’t that far off in the distance.

Mike Moustakas sets Royals single-season record with 37th home run

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Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas belted his 37th home run on Wednesday evening, setting a new club record for homers in a single season. Moustakas had been tied with Steve Balboni, who hit 36 home runs in 1985.

The home run came on a 2-0, 82 MPH slider from Blue Jays reliever Carlos Ramirez, boosting the Royals’ lead to 13-0 in the top of the sixth inning.

Moustakas, 29, entered the night batting .271/.313/.523 with 82 RBI and 71 runs scored in 560 plate appearances.

Chris Sale records his 300th strikeout this season

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale recorded his 300th strikeout of the 2017 season on Wednesday night against the Orioles. The momentous occasion occurred with two outs in the eighth inning. Facing Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a slider that caught the strike zone low and inside for called strike three.

Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strikeout 300-plus batters in a season in the last 15 years. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002, and Johnson also did it in 2001 and 2000. Pedro Martinez had been the only other Red Sox pitcher to have a 300-strikeout season.

Through eight scoreless innings, Sale limited the Orioles to four hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox offense gave him plenty of run support. Mookie Betts and Devin Marrero each hit two-run home runs in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run double of his own in the eighth to make it 8-0.