Even though manager Joe Maddon inserted Heyward back into the Cubs starting lineup for Game Four of the World Series, Maddon spent most of his pregame press conference Saturday addressing Heyward’s shortcomings, and what needs to change for the slumping 27-year-old outfielder.
“Honestly, there are so many times that I would probably talk about a guy’s mental approach getting in the way. With him it truly is a physical adaptation that he’s got to make in regards to how he’s swinging the bat and how he presents the head of the bat to the ball,” Maddon said. “There’s nothing physically holding him back. There’s not a lack of quickness, awareness, all that stuff. It’s just a physical awareness or adjustment that I think he has to make, and we’ve talked about it.”
Heyward, the seventh overall pick in 2007 by the Braves, will bat seventh and start in right field in Game Four, his first career World Series start. He replaces Jorge Soler, who started the previous two games of the Series in right field for the Cubs.
The Cubs signed Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million dollar contract in the offseason, but the former No. 1 overall prospect in the game hit just .230 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs and a .631 OPS in his first year of the deal.
He went 2-for-28 in the NLDS and NLCS and didn’t start any of the first three games of the World Series.
“He’s still working on things, but this is something he’s going to have to, really, during the winter time search internally, ‘What do I want to do here?’” Maddon said. “For right now, believe me, his work is outstanding. He’s shown spurts or signs of really coming through what he had done in the past. But for right now pretty much just go play without overthinking it right now. Just go play and just contribute to us winning somehow. But absolutely it’s something that needs to be addressed and he will address it in the offseason. I have a lot of faith in him going into next year.”
Napoli, a 12-year veteran originally drafted in the 17th round by the Angels in 2000, had started every game this postseason for the Indians but entered Saturday hitting just .184 (7-for-38.)
The day-after buzz around Chicago and social media was that Soler could have scored on his seventh-inning triple in the Cubs’ 1-0 loss in Game Three on Friday.
Soler’s fly ball to right field fell just fair after a mistimed jump along the wall by Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and rolled around the corner, but Soler hesitated running out of the box anticipating it would land foul.
Still, Maddon said he doubted Soler could have had a game-tying, inside-the-park home run if he ran hard immediately out of the box.
“I think I would have been disappointed had he only gotten to second base. I think all he could have done was get to third base,” Maddon said. “I heard about the discussion, it kind of surprised me a little bit. When I saw the replay, and I thought it happened, and it happens to a hitter sometimes, you hit the ball and you don’t know where it is. Once you find out where it is, truthfully, from the dugout it looked like it was going to be in the stands and the wind blew it back. Not any excuses, but the way the play eventually turned out, I truly believe the best he could have done is achieved third base under any circumstances.”
Soler, who signed for $30 million as an international free agent out of Cuba in 2012, has been dogged by questions about his effort dating back to his minor league days. His 2013 BA scouting report as the Cubs’ No. 5 prospect notes, “While Soler wasn’t fully healthy all spring, he also didn’t always give a full effort, and at times he appeared uninspired about playing in the minors.” His 2014 scouting report as the Cubs No. 3 prospect includes the observation “His biggest issues are concentration, competing consistently and staying healthy, none of which he has done yet over a full pro season.”
Jansen, 29, went 3-2, 1.83 with 47 saves and 104 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings. The Dodgers originally signed him as a catcher as a 17-year-old international free agent from Curacao in 2004 but converted him to pitching full-time in high Class A in 2009. He was unable to attend the ceremony in person but accepted the award in a video message.
Britton, 28, went 2-1, 0.54 and was 47-for-47 in save opportunities and accepted the award in person. The Orioles originally drafted him as a starter in the third round, 85th overall, in 2006 and made him a full-time reliever in his fourth season in the majors in 2014.
The American League Reliever of the Year Award is named after Mariano Rivera and the National League Reliever of the Year Award is named after Trevor Hoffman. Both were at the ceremony to present the awards.