After a tumultuous 12 months, Nick Madrigal sees light at the end of the tunnel
The 2018 first-round pick suffered a season-ending torn hamstring, was traded to the Cubs and is hitting .216. “It’s been difficult. But I’m proud of myself for just being where I’m at right now. It’s real easy to get down on the things that have happened the last couple of years.”
Nick Madrigal has spent most of his life making hitting look easy. Or easier.
He hit .380 and .367 in his final two seasons at Oregon State. He hit .341 in Class A Kannapolis, .306 at high-A Winston-Salem, .342 at AA Birmingham and .331 at AAA Charlotte. He hit .340 in 103 at-bats as a rookie with the White Sox and .305 in an abbreviated season last year.
Madrigal was so good, even little blips of failure used to tear him apart.
“When I was younger I would get so frustrated if I had a bad game,” Madrigal said. “There was a moment I just figured it out — ‘What is this doing for me?’ when I got frustrated. I’m hurting myself more if I’m taking my frustration from the last game to the next game. It’s something I’ve learned over time that no matter how frustrated you are, there’s always another game.”
That maturity is coming in handy now more than ever, with Madrigal working his way through a series of unexpected hurdles over the past 12 months — a torn hamstring that ended his 2021 season on June 9; being traded to the Cubs for Craig Kimbrel; and the biggest slump of his professional career this season — the 25-year-old Madrigal came into Saturday’s doubleheader with the Cardinals hitting .216 in 26 games (19-for-88).
“It’s been difficult,” Madrigal said. “Just from the injuries to not getting off to the best start, it’s been tough mentally. But I’m proud of myself for just being where I’m at right now. It’s real easy to get down on the things that have happened the last couple of years.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my family, the people in my life that really supported me, because it hasn’t been easy. But I feel like I’m in a real good spot right now. I’m having fun in the locker room. Having fun with the guys. Hopefully we can turn it around and have a lot more positive things to look forward to.”
Madrigal gave particular credit to his mom for helping him keep his head through a difficult time.
“She always shoots me texts after the game,” Madrigal said, “when there’s good games, bad games, she’s always the first one to text me and give me words of wisdom. It means a lot to see that. It’s easy to get down on yourself when things aren’t going so well. But my family’s always been there for me, no matter if I’m getting four hits in a game or no hits.
“It means a lot to have them by my side — especially during this long season, you need someone there for you and my family’s always been there for me.”
Madrigal sees signs of hope since returning from the injured list Tuesday after missing 21 games with a lower back strain. He was 3-for-9 in three games, with a hit in each game. That’s a small sample, but enough to encourage Madrigal he’s heading in the right direction.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball better,” he said. “I’m confident in where I’m at right now. I feel comfortable. I don’t feel like the ball’s coming in 150 mph anymore like it was in the beginning.”
Manager David Ross also sees indications — at the plate, on the bases and playing second base — that Madrigal will return to form.
“The main thing I’ve seen, [he’s] just moving well,” Ross said. “Just the quickness in his step at second base; getting down the line; the at-bats have been pretty good so far. His timing seems to be there. I love the he shot the lefty [Cardinals reliever T.J. McFarland] down the right-field line [Thursday]. He’s gonna get the at-bats. But so far, so good.”
Madrigal still has a long way to go, but that’s the beauty of the long season. He’ll get the opportunity. And he’s in the right frame of mind to take advantage of it.
“I’ve always been confident in myself no matter what,” he said. “It doesn’t look like it from the outside, but I trust my abilities. No matter what it looks like out there [right now], it’s gonna work out in the end. Baseball’s a tough game. [But] if you try to stay as even-keeled as possible, no matter if it’s good times or bad times, you’re going to have a pretty good chance.”