By Mark Grote–
(CBS) The Cubs offense may be in a damaging “slump” right now, but that’s a forbidden word around the team’s clubhouse, according to assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske.
“We don’t ever say the word ‘slump,’” and you’ve said it like five times already,” Hinske told me in an interview, though I counted just four.
A lot of our conversation centered on rookie third baseman Kris Bryant, who hasn’t had the same blast in his bat recently. He’s hitting just .125 with a .250 slugging percentage since the All-Star break.
“He’s just a young player in the big leagues, honestly,” said Hinske, a former player who was the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year.
“It’s tough to be successful up here, but if you look at his numbers, I think he has 13 homers and 50-some RBIs? That’s pretty good. Everybody wants to put all these expectations on a guy, and for me, I just want to be a part of his everyday routine and let him know that there are going to be ups and downs, and to just stay as consistent as possible.”
There is an allowable way to characterize one’s troubles at the plate without using the word “slump,” Hinske explained.
“Period of adjustment,” he said with a smile.
Manger Joe Maddon is big on the idea of control-alt-delete after bad losses, but there’s no denying the effects of a team that’s enduring a “period of adjustment” on offense. The Cubs have scored just a combined 15 runs in their past five games, a stretch in which they’ve gone 1-4.
“When a team is not hitting, it always looks bad,” Maddon said.
Bryant keeps perspective
Bryant shared some light on his struggles in a Q-and-A with me.
Grote: How would you characterize your performance at the plate right now?
Bryant: “I would just say I’m due. That’s baseball. You have ups and downs and can’t expect to go out there and get a hit or a homer every time. Pitching up here is good, and I realize that. I will continue to come here early every day and work hard.”
Grote: Is there anything specifically that you are zeroing in on?
Bryant: “Maybe changing my mentality a little bit up there and thinking differently.”
Grote: What do you mean by that?
Bryant: “It’s just a long season, so sometimes it is easy to tune out a little bit. But it’s up to me to keep that focus and go to the plate with a clear mind. I haven’t lost any confidence at all. I believe that I am the best player on the field every day, but sometimes you’re just a little lackadaisical up there, and pitchers take advantage of that.”
Grote: The pitching on your team has been pretty good this season. Do hitters get a guilty conscious when there is so little run support?
Bryant: “Sure. It would be nice to be able to score some runs for them. They are doing a great job by keeping us in ball games. We’ve won some games with three hits but just managed to get them at the right time. That’s baseball. It’s how it works, but we’ll get on a hot run, and we’ll be scoring 10 runs a game, and we’ll forget about this.”
Grote: What does manager Joe Maddon say about it?
Bryant: “Just to keep the foot on the gas pedal, and realize what our goal is here, and continue to chase it.
Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.