MIAMI — Kris Bryant has played five positions this season, but third base remains his best spot.

But even manager Joe Maddon and Bryant acknowledge that a case can be made that the Cubs’ best defense involves Bryant in left field and dazzling infielder Javier Baez at third base.

“Javy makes some unbelievable plays over there,” said Bryant, who made a diving catch Thursday in left field. “But he does it all over the infield. But I think that’s the best defense. With some people being hurt, it does cause some people to move all over the place.’

“I think the best defense is with me out there in left.”

Baez continued to strengthen his case as an elite defender Friday night by running in foul territory to catch a foul pop by J.T. Realmuto before crashing into the front row.

Baez played the final four innings with a puffy right hand suffered as he tried to plant it, and the right side of his chin felt sore. Baez thought that either his chin hit the backrest of a seat or that he was accidentally kicked by a fan.

“I can walk, hit, talk,” said Baez, who started Saturday at second base while Ben Zobrist heals from a left ankle bruise. “I’m playing.”

Maddon has noticed that Baez is more confident since watching him in the Puerto Rican League shortly before the start of the 2015 season.

“When he really understands what he’s doing at the plate, that’s when people are going to start talking about him because he’s going to play both sides of the ball,” Maddon said. “He’s going to be a ridiculously good defender and his offense, he’s going to hit homers, have clutch at-bats and learn to walk more.

“He’s going to do all those different things. Give him some time because he’s going to be a complete player soon.”


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