Cubs weigh position changes for Javier Baez and Kris Bryant

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With a straight face, Jed Hoyer said it’s important to focus on what’s up here at Wrigley Field right now — a last-place team flirting with a 100-loss pace. But the Cubs general manager did make a larger point about the obsession with Triple-A/Double-A kids.

“It’s fun to look at the box scores in Iowa and Tennessee,” Hoyer said before Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the San Diego Padres. “(But) every time you switch a guy’s position, or a guy has a big night, people shouldn’t be looking or clamoring for a promotion.”

Amen. So when are Javier Baez and Kris Bryant getting here?

Expect Bryant sometime after Opening Day 2015. Baez looks like a potential September call-up.

But on a day where the Cubs designated for assignment a Gold Glove second baseman (Darwin Barney) and confirmed Arismendy Alcantara needs to play every day in the big leagues, Hoyer downplayed the significance of Baez recently moving off shortstop.

“The Baez second-base thing is really more big-picture than anything else,” Hoyer said. “We want to increase his versatility. We thought it was the right thing to do to start putting him there. … These moves are not connected.”

[MORE CUBS: It’s Arismendy Alcantara’s time after Cubs DFA Darwin Barney]

After a slow start that created a panic on Twitter, the 21-year-old Baez has started to find his rhythm in the Pacific Coast League, putting up 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 89 games.

“We went into the year thinking we would move him around a bit earlier, and he struggled offensively,” Hoyer said. “We thought it was going to be the wrong time to have this guy worry about a defensive change. (So) we held off on it, and really waited until he got going offensively. We’re pretty proud of what he’s done this year. In some ways, it’s been ideal for him.

“He really built on every single month, until the last three or four weeks, when he’s been outstanding. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see that trajectory.

“In the minor leagues, you want to see guys finishing strong. You want to see them conquer that level, and his ability to fight through what was a difficult start has been really impressive.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs promoting Jorge Soler and Albert Almora]

Bryant hasn’t really faced that adversity yet, hitting .345 and putting up 33 homers and 84 RBIs in 97 games split between Tennessee and Iowa.

The Cubs have had internal discussions about shifting Bryant from third base to right field, but they aren’t prepared to make that move yet with last year’s No. 2 overall pick out of the University of San Diego.

“He can do it,” Hoyer said. “He played center in college, and he’s played right. He feels good out there. The biggest focus for him right now is he’s working on his defense. He is almost 6-6, and with that the fundamentals of playing third base are more challenging.

“In the future, I would never say never that we wouldn’t put him out there. But right now, our focus is third.”

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports