CLEVELAND — Like many Cubs players, the month of April wasn’t kind to outfielder Joc Pederson, but it looks like he’s starting to heat up.
Pederson was the hottest hitter in baseball coming out of spring training as he hit a league-leading eight homers. But when the season started, he quickly fell on hard times.
Things had begun to spiral for Pederson, who hit .137 (7-for-51) with one homer in 16 games before left wrist inflammation landed him on the 10-day injured list. But after a quick stint on the IL, Pederson has started to get locked in.
“Baseball is a strange game and sometimes it speeds up on you pretty quickly,” Pederson said after the 2-1 loss in 10 innings Wednesday against the Indians. “Unfortunately, I was on the IL, but you just have to make the best of a situation and get your mind back locked in so that you’re ready to go out there, compete and help the team win.’’
Pederson is having a monster month of May and continued his hot hitting Wednesday with three more hits, going 5-for-10 in the two-game set.
Pederson’s improvement at the plate has come at the right time as the Cubs have been hit by several injuries to position players over the last two weeks. The 29-year-old outfielder is hitting .444 (12-for-27) since returning from the IL on May 4.
Pederson looked like a shell of himself during April, but he’s back to looking like the player who was on a tear when the team left Arizona at the end of March.
“I was able to take a break mentally from that [stretch],” Pederson said. “Kind of been doing the same thing in the cage. Sometimes you put good swings on it, sometimes you don’t. You just keep it moving and stay positive.”
Manager David Ross had spoken all spring and during the early portion of the season about how he would give Pederson every opportunity to succeed, including against left-handed pitching, which has historically given Pederson problems.
“I think his timing. His timing is in sync, he’s using all fields,” Ross said. “I really thought he was pulling his hands in well when they’re trying to pitch him in. He’s stayed on some lefties and taken some balls up the middle, the other way.
“There’s been a whole-field approach, not trying to do too much. Touch the baseball when he has two strikes on him, and he’s swinging for power when he’s in hitter’s counts.”
Pederson’s resurgence has mirrored an improved offensive stretch as a team. The Cubs, though, didn’t have much to celebrate offensively in Cleveland, going 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the two games, but they did have 20 hits in the series. They’re hitting .260 as a club over their last 14 games, which ranks third in MLB over that stretch.
While the injuries never will be an excuse, it is the Cubs’ reality that they’ve been without much of their lineup this month and have still found some offensive footing. When players such as Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Jake Marisnick are healthy, things could really begin to turn.
“We’re banged up, but the grit, determination, fight and how these guys approached really good pitching while short-handed, I’ve been impressed with, to be honest with you,” Ross said. “I would definitely say, I like where we’re at.”
“We’re close,” Pederson said. “Things are coming. The pitching has been great. We’re moving in the right direction.”