Cubs switch hitter Ian Happ has ignored pressure to pick a side at several points in his career.
‘‘Different sides, different years,’’ he said. “So I think it’s just about having the confidence in yourself to know that this is the best choice for you.’’
For much of Happ’s career, his splits have favored his left-handed swing. But in the Cubs’ 6-5 loss Tuesday to the Rays at Wrigley Field, Happ logged another momentum-swinging hit right-handed. The Cubs twice got as close as run after falling behind 4-0 and 6-3 but couldn’t finish the comeback.
From a broader view, Happ’s strong start from the right side might, if his success continues, open up another part of his game.
‘‘Just approach-wise, mentality, being able to go in there with a little bit of rhythm and free things up right-handed was huge,’’ Happ said of what he was able to carry over from the end of last season. ‘‘Something I hadn’t really done for the last few years — probably since ’17 — right-handed.’’
In 2017, Happ’s debut season, he hit for a better average from the right side (.276) than the left (.243). So far this season, he has gone 6-for-12 right-handed.
‘‘What’s stood out to me so far about Ian is taking the balls to right [field],’’ manager David Ross said this week.
Happ attributes those opposite-field hits to that approach from late last season, ‘‘not getting too big and staying through the ball.’’
Happ picked up switch-hitting when he was 8 years old, spurred on by his older brother, and committed to it in his freshman year of high school. His swings from each side of the plate, even beyond the obvious difference in leg kick, always have felt different, he said.
‘‘My hands work a little bit better right-handed as far as controlling the barrel,’’ Happ said in a conversation with the Sun-Times, ‘‘but my [bat] path is better lefty to get the ball in the air.’’
So his focus is different from each side. Swinging left-handed, Happ creates a lot of loft naturally, so he thinks about staying on top of the ball. From the right side, he’s trying to stay up the middle and get the ball in the air.
This offseason, Happ said, his work right-handed centered on ‘‘rhythm and flow and feeling.’’
‘‘Even if I’m not getting consistent right-handed at-bats because of the schedule, [I’m] still feeling like anytime I get in the box righty, I have that same rhythm and flow, regardless of if my last at-bat was two weeks ago,’’ he said.
‘‘I think that’s something in my career that I’ve struggled with right-handed. You could have five at-bats spread out over two weeks and be 0-for-5, but that’s a pretty small sample size. Trying to make adjustments based on that really doesn’t make any sense.’’
Similarly, Happ’s 12 at-bats right-handed this season are too few to make any declarations about what his numbers will be at the end. But they’ve made a difference in individual games.
Happ logged the go-ahead RBI right-handed in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory against the Rays on Monday.
On Tuesday, Happ started the Cubs’ three-run rally in the fourth inning with a single to left. Frank Schwindel drove him in with a double, and Patrick Wisdom hit a two-run home run to cut the Rays’ lead to 4-3.
Each team scored two runs in the seventh, but Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge pitched two scoreless innings to keep the Cubs at bay.