Davis bringing new plate 'mentality' to Cubs

New hitting coach working closely with Heyward on swing

January 13th, 2018

CHICAGO -- Asked about how his sessions with outfielder were going in Arizona, new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis offered to show some videos. Apparently, the workouts are going very well.

The two began in early November, and they are now working together two days a week at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz. Last Tuesday was the first time Heyward, 28, and his younger brother Jacob, 22, who was drafted by the Giants last year, tested their swings on a field rather than the batting cages.

What did Davis want to see?

"[I wanted to] watch them go from the cage to the field, and my focus with them was to see if they were going to transfer the focus and the process that we were going through in the cage [to the field]," Davis said.

Davis complimented John Mallee, who was dismissed as the Cubs' hitting coach after this past season.

"It was surprising to me that a team that had been to the playoffs three years in a row and had won a World Series was going to make a change," Davis said. "For me, all I can say is the opportunity came up, and it couldn't be a better opportunity."

Now there is a new voice. Davis, 57, played 19 seasons in the big leagues, and most recently, he was the Red Sox's hitting coach. Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he gives the team "the graduate school finishing touch."

"I try to bring a mentality, not as much a philosophy, in hitting," Davis said. "Everybody has a philosophy and a lot of them, to me, match. That doesn't make me any different than any other guy. I try to bring a mentality in how we approach the game."

Right now, he's working on building trust with the players. Heyward has been a project since batting .230 in 2016, his first season with the Cubs.

"A relationship with me, it's kind of like meeting your wife or girlfriend," Davis said. "Whoever she dated prior to you, it doesn't matter. It's what happens from that point on."

Worth noting

• The 2018 season will be the fourth for Maddon, who has a five-year contract with the Cubs. A fan asked Maddon if he was going to talk to the Ricketts family about an extension.

"I have a job to do, and I have two years left on my contract," Maddon said. "I'm totally looking forward to honoring the next two years. I've been very fortunate in the first place that the Ricketts family and [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and [general manager Jed Hoyer] gave me this opportunity. I don't want to go anywhere else, and that's obvious and that's true.

"I don't worry about stuff like that," Maddon said. "That's the kind of stuff that takes care of itself. I'm not concerned about that. I am a Cub right now, and I want to be a Cub for many years to come."

• Although the Cubs are still in the market for another starting pitcher, Epstein said they feel confident can handle the closer duties.

"That's the guy we anticipate being in that role," Epstein said of the right-hander, who signed a two-year, $21 million deal in December.

• The last question of the session for Maddon was about who will lead off for the Cubs in 2018.

"If you don't have the typical Dexter [Fowler] kind of guy, you have to chose from the group that you have. I totally agree it's wonderful to have that catalyst at the top of the batting order who sets the tone for the rest of the group. We'll go to camp and sit down and try to evaluate everybody."

• A young fan asked Epstein when he thought he should buy his Cubs jersey, assuming the outfielder, who will be a free agent after this season, will be signing with the Cubs.

"Ask . He seems to have quite a few," Epstein said of Harper's Las Vegas buddy.

• Asked by a fan for his favorite road trip, Maddon quipped: "Barcelona, Spain."