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Javier Baez ready to embrace big Mets stage: ‘Just gotta be me’

For a team that was coming off a tough loss and the news of a Jacob deGrom setback Friday night, the Mets got a welcome shot of Javier Baez on Saturday.

The club’s big trade deadline prize arrived in Queens less than 24 hours after being dealt by the Cubs and jumped right into the Mets’ playoff chase, batting cleanup and playing shortstop in his Citi Field debut against the Reds.

Wearing a bright orange Mets shirt, Baez took early batting practice Saturday afternoon to familiarize himself with his new home and was looking forward to embracing the big stage.

“It’s just the way that I play,” Baez said. “I play the same way and I’m the same guy every day. I try to bring that energy to the team, to the clubhouse. There’s not much to say, I just gotta be me, go out there and compete and play hard.

Javier Baez will bat cleanup and play shortstop in his Mets debut Saturday.
Javier Baez will bat cleanup and play shortstop in his Mets debut Saturday.
Robert Sabo

“I know New York’s got great fans. I’ve been seeing it from the other side. Hopefully they’re really excited to have me because I’m really excited to help the team and bring my energy here.”

Baez will play predominantly shortstop until his longtime friend, Francisco Lindor, returns from his oblique injury — potentially by mid-to-late August — at which point he could move around the infield. That figures to include a heavy dose of second base, with manager Luis Rojas calling the idea of Lindor and Baez up the middle “mind-blowing.”

Whether that turns into a double-play tandem for years to come with the Mets remains to be seen. Lindor signed a 10-year extension on the eve of Opening Day, after being traded from the Indians in the offseason, but Baez is currently set to become a free agent after this season.

“We’ll see how everything goes,” Baez said of his interest in playing for the Mets beyond the next two-plus months. “I’m obviously trying to get to know the other guys and trying to be as close as I can and learn from the guys and see what happens. … I know we’re in first place and hopefully we go deep in the playoffs and see what happens next year.”

Though Baez will have to wait a few more weeks to actually play next to Lindor, his excitement was hardly tampered. The duo began playing against each other as kids in their native Puerto Rico, then again as high schoolers in Florida before eventually being picked eighth (Lindor) and ninth (Baez) in the 2011 MLB Draft. They have remained close and were in frequent contact on Friday as the trade — which also sent pitcher Trevor Williams to the Mets for prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong — went down.

Mets
A first look at Javier Baez in Mets colors.
Robert Sabo

“I’m super excited. I couldn’t be happier,” Lindor said. “I’m going to be playing alongside a good friend of mine, a great person, a great baseball player and somebody that’s going to help us win. … I can’t wait for him to come out here and put up a show for everybody.”

In 91 games this season for the Cubs, Baez was hitting .248 with a 108 OPS-plus, 22 home runs, 13 steals, 15 walks and a league-leading 131 strikeouts. He had also been dealing with a recent heel injury, but Rojas said Baez described it as “nagging” instead of him being injured.

Baez said leaving Chicago was emotional — especially being part of the core that was traded away this week, along with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant — after coming up with the organization and winning a World Series in 2016. But he also said he was ready to move on and help his new team chase another championship in New York.

“Very impressed with his demeanor,” Rojas said. “All he talks about is winning, so he comes right with our mindset. We’re all very excited that he’s here.”

nypost.com

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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