Young Cubs get sage advice from Soriano
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PEORIA, Ariz. — Jorge Soler had an interpreter with him Monday to talk about being sent to the minor leagues.
"Si," he said.
The Cubs made it official Monday, optioning Soler to Class A Daytona and sending Baez to minor-league camp. Baez likely will join Soler in Daytona to start the season.
Both young players saw plenty of playing time in the Cactus League, and both acquitted themselves well, with Baez enjoying a home run burst over the weekend.
Neither the 20-year-old Baez nor the 21-year-old Soler was going to make the major-league roster, so spring was a time of learning about hitting, baseball and life in the big-league camp.
"(I) learned a lot about hitting, a lot of good things," Soler said through Franklin Font, the Cubs' coaching staff assistant. "Be more patient with the pitches."
Baez voiced similar sentiments when he answered, "take pitches," as to what he's learning.
Soler said the biggest adjustment, coming from Cuba, is learning English. The most striking thing to me, though, was the advice he got from veteran Alfonso Soriano.
"Sori told me, 'No matter what, no matter what kind of money you get, no matter what kind of signing bonus, you've got to stay working hard every single day,'" he said. "And when you go down to the minor leagues, you've got to be an example for the young kids."
For as maligned as Soriano has been — largely because of the eight-year, $136 million contract the previous Cubs regime bestowed on him — he has become an elder statesman and a mentor to young Cubs, such as Starlin Castro.
Yes, Soriano has boatloads of money, but you'd never know it by watching him work. It's early in the batting cage, on the field for batting practice, a late session in the cage and postgame workouts. And Soriano never has big-timed anyone in the media or his fellow teammates because he gets superstar money.
What Soriano is doing with the young players is passing down baseball tradition, as it was passed to him on the Yankees by Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.
"I just talked to him because seeing Soler reminds me of my first time here when I came from (playing baseball) in Japan," said Soriano, a native of the Dominican Republic. "Everything is different, different with the language. The game is different.
"I just talked to him about working hard, listening to coaches because that's the way you can get better. The minor leagues is good for you to get better, but where you want to be is in the big leagues.
"I played in the minor leagues before, and I saw a lot of negative things, so I hope he does not pay attention to those negatives."
During the winter, Soriano often can be found working out at the Cubs' Dominican facility with younger players.
"When I played here the first time with the Yankees, I saw a lot of good things that helped me play this game," Soriano said. "So I try to do the same for motivation, like, 'It's good to be here in spring training in the big leagues, but now that you go to the minor leagues, you have to work hard to come back.'"
Soriano also has seen players fizzle out in the minors.
"Sometimes those 'talents' go to the minor leagues, and they go a different way. That guy forgot the priority is baseball. He got some talent, but a lot of good players do not play in the big leagues because they take the wrong direction. So I don't want that to happen to those guys because you never know. They're so young.
"They can see a lot of (situations) in the minor leagues. Maybe friends tell them to do something wrong. They're young, and maybe they do it and they (mess up) the rest of their career. So I try to just help and focus on baseball, because that's why we're here, for 6-7 months. You want to have a long vacation, 4-5 months, you can do whatever. But now is the time to work hard and concentrate on baseball only."
As far as the money goes, Soriano addressed that, too.
"I told Soler, 'You got the money, but that's not enough,'" Soriano said. "The money will come. But you have to work hard to get better because the Cubs give you money, but they want something back. They want you in the big leagues and to help the team win."
Soriano added he'd like to see the torched passed years from now by Baez and Soler.
"Maybe when they get old like me, they can do the same for the young guys," he said.
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