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Cubs’ Baez shot has heads shaking

(MCT) — MESA, Ariz. — Top prospect Javier Baez nearly took Dee Gordon’s head off with a one-hop shot up the middle that glanced off the shortstop’s glove in Wednesday’s 11-7 loss to the Dodgers.

“I’ve probably seen balls hit as hard,” manager Dale Sveum said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball hit harder. I was running from the on-deck circle from that ball. That was like balls Gary Sheffield used to hit.”

Baez’s bat speed has been mentioned in camp a few times, but even Tim Wilken, the longtime scouting director and current adviser to President Theo Epstein, was shaking his head afterward.

“If you hit the ball like that all the time, you’re going to feel great,” Baez said. “He was playing in and it was a short bounce so he had to make a choice.”

The choice was to stick up his glove and hope to keep his head intact, which worked for Gordon.

Ticket date announced: The Cubs announced single game tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. March 8 at Wrigley Field with online and phone sales following at 10 a.m.

This will be the final year the Cubs will give fans a chance to buy tickets at the ballpark before they go on sale online or over the phone, where service fees are added to the purchase.

“Once we get into the Wrigley Field restoration the ticket windows will be closed down,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “Obviously more people are going online to purchase tickets, so we’ll make this the final one (at Wrigley). There are still old school die-hard fans who like the nostalgia of going to the ticket window. But those days are gone and more are moving toward the Internet.”

The Cubs also are offering their annual pre-sale on March 6 on the team’s website for a 20 percent premium, or a 15 percent premium for using MasterCard.

Leadoff conundrum: David DeJesus will remain the leadoff man against right-handers, but Sveum said Luis Valbuena eventually could develop into the role.

“Possibly, because he gives you great at-bats, he sees a lot of pitches, he can score first with a home run once in a while, he drives the ball,” Sveum said. “But DeJesus is our leadoff hitter. There’s no discrepancy there.”

Sveum mentioned Dave Sappelt and Darwin Barney as possible leadoff men against lefties, if Sappelt makes the club.

Extra innings: Matt Garza passed some upper body strength tests and will begin throwing on Thursday. ... Ian Stewart was cleared to appear in the bunting tournament, but still hasn’t swung a bat since his quad injury last week.

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