GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Jason Heyward Watch is still in the initial stages, but here are four words to remember: Dude, it’s spring training.
Heyward is too polite and professional to put it that way, patiently answering all questions about his new/old swing and offseason training program. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly praised the $184 million outfielder for his Gold Glove defense, heads-up base-running and overall baseball IQ.
This is not a player fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster or wondering about where he fits in the everyday lineup. This is only a quick snapshot in what will be a small sample size in an environment where stats can be misleading, if not completely meaningless: 0-for-11 with a walk and two strikeouts.
"It’s just all about timing, getting in the zone again," Heyward said during Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. "Right now, guys are making some pretty good pitches, I feel like, all the way around. I feel like we’ve all been saying that to each other – guys aren’t really missing."
In Heyward’s mind, this will be a constant process that won’t stop once the Cubs leave Arizona. The focus is on getting into a rhythm and driving the ball with more authority – the way he did during his 27-homer season with the Atlanta Braves in 2012 – and breaking some of the bad habits that crept in last year (.631 OPS) and made him one of the least productive hitters in the majors.
"I could get hits – and hit a ball in the hole –and I wouldn’t really be happy," Heyward said. "You would be happy with a hit, obviously, but you just want to do it the right way.
"Getting a chance to play here the next few games in a row is going to be nice, to go out there and get some consistency and playing time, seeing the ball on a daily basis."