(CBS) After playing shortstop full time, every day since early August when Addison Russell landed on the disabled list with a foot injury, Cubs infielder Javier Baez finally got a day off Monday.
While the rest was well-deserved, the official reason he was out of the lineup in the 12-0 loss to the Pirates was because of a sore thumb. That was an injury that Baez suffered a day earlier when he slid head-first into second base. While he avoided serious injury, it continued a pattern for Baez as a professional. It was the third time in his career he suffered an injury because of a head-first slide, dating back to 2015 during his days at Triple-A.
So what’s manager Joe Maddon’s stance on Baez’s headfirst slides?
“Be safe,” Maddon said in an interview with Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins on 670 The Score on Tuesday afternoon. “Literally. Listen, everybody always wants to legislate when somebody gets hurt. I really don’t like when you (slide headfirst) into the plate, especially if the catcher has the ball in time to protect the plate, because that’s when you’re going to get hurt — sliding into a catcher’s shin guards, he’s moving into you with a lot of force.
“Going into bases, I’ve seen thumb injuries, I’ve seen finger injuries. We saw it earlier this year with (Kris Bryant). You’re just seeing it right now with Javy.
“It’s hard in the heat of the moment to ask a guy to do something he’s normally not used to doing. And he’s just trying to be safe, literally safe (at second base), not safe from protecting himself from injury. But that’s how he’s played. So there’s times when you absolutely want to slide feet first. There’s other times, headfirst, I’m not opposed to it. But I don’t really want to have to worry about it.”
Maddon wants his players to trust their instincts. He pointed out that while sliding feet first is safer, everyone praises Baez and others, for example, when they utilize a swim move at second base sneak their hand around a defensive player to be safe when they otherwise would’ve been out.
“You got to get in the head of the athlete in the moment,” Maddon said. “OK, we’re going to ask him to change his technique, he’s 20-some years of age?
“Now are you going to get the same product? I’m not 100 percent sure. It’s not easy to change those things midstream when you’ve been doing it another way for so many years. It comes into the category of easier said than done. He’s wearing that mitten now when he plays, Javy is. Maybe he’s got to put one on each hand. Maybe he’s got to look like he has oven mitts on. I don’t know. Again, I just want them to play … It’s really hard to legislate against that.”