CHICAGO — After learning about Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s critical remarks about his style of play, Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez fired back at Hurdle on Thursday afternoon.
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“I bust my ass every day to play hard,” Baez said after the Cubs’ 6-1 loss to the Pirates. “I don’t think anyone plays this game harder than me. I respect [the game]. I respect whatever, but you don’t go out there and talk trash about someone. I have a lot of things I could say right now, but I don’t control what’s out there, what people talk about me.”
Hours earlier, before the game, Hurdle criticized Baez for a bat flip from the night before — after Baez popped out in the seventh inning.
“You watch their kid flip that bat last night?” Hurdle said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Where’s the respect for the game? The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15, 20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth home run? I would bet that men over there talked to him, because I do believe they have a group over there that speaks truth to power.”
In fact, Cubs reliever Pedro Strop did talk to Baez on Wednesday about the flip, leading to Baez bringing it up, unprompted, after the game.
“You know what I learned?” Baez said late Wednesday night. “How ugly I looked on that fly ball. I tossed the bat really high, didn’t run to first base and one of my teammates came up to me and said it, in a good way. You learn from it. … I was mad about it. Not the fly ball, just the way I looked for the kids and everyone that follows me. That’s not a good look. I learned that from today.”
Hurdle was also critical of catcher Willson Contreras, but the Baez issue has some history with the Pirates. Broadcaster Steve Blass went after Baez last season during a broadcast, calling him a “difficult player to root for,” due to his “flashy” nature. Baez was well aware of what Blass said and then learned of Hurdle’s comments in the shower after Thursday’s game.
“If I have to apologize, I have to apologize to my teammates and my manager,” Baez said. “Not to the other team. We’re playing against them. … We won [13-5 on Wednesday] and I think it got to them.”
Baez seemingly held back saying more, and insisted — just as he did last year — he wouldn’t change his style. He hit four home runs in the first two games of the series, but the Pirates won two of three.
“I’m happy,” Baez said. “There is music in the clubhouse, but we lost. People that talk about me can save it.”