Cubs: Shane Victorino feels 'dynamic' in return to switch-hitting


Cubs: Shane Victorino feels 'dynamic' in return to switch-hitting

MESA, Ariz. - As of right now, the Cubs still have a crowded outfield, but Shane Victorino has an ace up his sleeve to help him crack the roster.

Victorino broke into the big leagues as a switch-hitter over a decade ago, but a back injury forced him to return to his natural side of right-handed while with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

Now, for the first time in almost three years, Victorino feels healthy enough to return to switch-hitting.

"The thing I've found from going back to it - my body's dynamic from both sides," Victorino said. "My body starts to sync up correctly. I'm doing things from both sides rotationally.

"My body feels great. ... Listen, a month from now, I don't know. But right now, physically, I feel great."

[RELATED - Shane Victorino joins Cubs with thoughts of a championship on his mind]

Victorino's back injury got so bad that he had to have surgery on it in August 2014. When he got back on the field last season, he still didn't feel strong enough to hit left-handed, so stuck with righty in games.

But as the 2015 season wore on, Victorino started feeling better and began working in his left-handed stroke in the batting cage and occasionally in batting practice.

He's been working out all winter from both sides of the plate and took batting practice from each side Sunday in Sloan Park.

Victorino said he's going to stick to switch-hitting barring any further injury. He knows it's a great tool to have at his disposal and manager Joe Maddon confirmed Sunday it would help the Cubs coming off the bench.

"It's definitely something that, as a player, I wish I never had to lose," Victorino said. "Unfortunately, injuries kinda took me away from it.

"I'm very excited to be back switch-hitting and trying to be the dynamic player I once was."

Victorino feels like working from both sides of the plate helps his swing across the board (i.e. his left-handed swing can help his right-handed mechanics and vice versa).

He picked up switch-hitting in the minor leagues at age 20, but struggled and stopped. The following season, while playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, a coach suggested Victorino pick up switch-hitting again to help set himself apart from other oufielders.

He found success with it and it stuck for the next 12 years before injury struck.

When he moved back to becoming just a right-handed hitter, Victorino found some success in 2013.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

But the 35-year-old veteran felt like the league caught up with him after they were initially thrown for a loop seeing Victorino as strictly a right-hander.

"To see these players talk about getting rid of being a switch-hitter, every single one I've talked to, I say, 'If it wasn't for physical reasons, there's no other reason why I'd give it up,'" Victorino said. "Some of these guys don't want to do it because, 'Oh, I'm not good from one side' or, 'I'm better from one side.'

"I'm like, in today's game, the numbers game that everybody plays and the matchups, it's not a benefit to get rid of switch-hitting.

"If you're a switch-hitter, I don't care if you hit .150 on one side and .400 on the other. Do not give it up."

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby


Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.


Sosa went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.


The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.


Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).


Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.