Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki on break from the starting lineup: ‘I’ve got to step up’

Suzuki is set to return to the starting lineup Wednesday against Mets left-hander David Peterson.

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The  Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki watches his deep fly out to White Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. on July 26.

Cubs manager David Ross said Seiya Suzuki will be back in the starting lineup Wednesday against Mets left-hander David Peterson.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

NEW YORK — Seiya Suzuki seemed to commit to swinging before he recognized the changeup. The result was a half-swing for strike three in his only at-bat in the Cubs’ 11-2 loss to the Mets on Monday.

“I think I’m just hesitating,” he said through his interpreter before Tuesday’s game.

The pinch-hit at-bat was emblematic of Suzuki’s recent struggles. Manager David Ross said he’ll be back in the starting lineup Wednesday against Mets left-hander David Peterson after being relegated to the bench for the last four games while the Cubs have faced four straight right-handed starters.

“Just sad that I’m not out there,” Suzuki said. “I’m not in the best condition right now. All the guys that are out there are the guys who are getting results. That’s just part of the game. And so that’s where I’ve got to step up and make sure I can get my spot back.”

With the addition of infielder Jeimer Candelario before the trade deadline, and with left-handed outfielder Mike Tauchman hitting .349 over the last three weeks, Suzuki has been in a platoon with Tauchman in right field.

“When things don’t really work out, obviously, for a long stretch, it becomes a mental thing,” Suzuki said. “And during that span, I just couldn’t organize what was the first thing to work on.”

Just a few weeks ago, it looked as if he was finding his rhythm. He sat down with the hitting coaches, went through film and created a plan, part of which was condensing his pregame routine. Over a span of six days, he had 11 hits, including a four-hit game against the Nationals and a three-hit game against the Cardinals. But he’s batting .128 in 11 games since.

“So many hitters are feel-oriented, and they want to make sure that they feel good,” hitting coach Dustin Kelly said. “And some of the best hitters understand that they’re not going to feel great every day, their swing isn’t going to feel really good, and they have the next ability to overcome that and get into a really good compete mode. And I think that’s where we’re going to see Seiya get to.”

Kelly and Suzuki agree his mechanics look and feel good in the batting cage. They had him zero in on two things: controlling his leg kick and steadying his head instead of racking back too far in his load.

“Confidence comes with the results, and as of right now, I’m not playing, so I’m not getting those results,” Suzuki said.

The break was also designed to give him time to work on his swing in the batting cages and relieve some of the everyday pressure.

“When you sit back and watch the game, you can slow it down a little bit,” Kelly said. “It’s not moving as fast as it is when you’re actually in the game. So, him getting a chance to step back and watch for a little bit, I think it’s going to give him the chance to see the game isn’t as fast as what you’ve been making it.”

That perspective can be hard to maintain during a slump.

“When I get into the game, I guess I get too eager to get those results,” Suzuki said. “And so in order to get those results, I feel like I need to relax a little bit more and just be more calm. And that’s what I’m going to do when I get in the box.”

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