Heyward works with new coach Davis on swing
OF looks to improve after injuries, mechanics had major effect in 2017
MESA, Ariz. -- New Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis wanted to call outfielder Jason Heyward this offseason to introduce himself. But as Davis was scrolling down the alphabetical list of names, he mistakenly linked pitcher Kyle Hendricks' name to Heyward's number. Davis left a message, saying, "Hey, are you ready to work?"
"[Hendricks] calls me back and said, 'Yeah, dude, I'm ready to work. I have to work on my offense,'" Davis said Thursday, relaying the story with a laugh. "I said, 'This isn't Jason.' [Hendricks] said, 'No, it's Kyle.'"
Davis did connect with Heyward -- and Hendricks probably had a good laugh about the message -- and it probably won't be the last time the coach mixes up the players. He was the Athletics' hitting coach from 2012-14 and had that job with the Red Sox from 2015-17.
What's key is that Davis gets his message across loud and clear to the Cubs players.
Heyward and Davis have been working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa since before Thanksgiving.
"It's been a very easy transition because he played for a long time," Heyward said of Davis, 58, who played 19 seasons in the big leagues. "He switch-hit, he knows how to talk feel and things like that. Sometimes you may not need to talk about a mechanic thing, sometimes you just need to talk about feel or whatever, and it gets you in the right mindset and things fall into place that way.
"At the end of the day during a season, 162 games, that's what you need more than anything," Heyward said. "You can work mechanics, you can work drills all you want, but the mindset going into that drill is important and the mindset going into each game and at-bat is important."
Heyward, 28, has been working out at the complex before camp officially opens, and he's prepared. He has a backpack outfitted with speakers that connect to his phone so he can play his tunes while hitting or doing sprints. The outfielder and Davis initially met once a week, and then twice a week.
Albert Almora Jr. and Victor Caratini both moved to the Phoenix area this offseason, so Heyward has had others to train with as well as his younger brother Jacob, 22, who was the Giants' 18th-round pick in the 2016 Draft.
Last season, the elder Heyward batted .259, and knew what he wanted to work on in the offseason. He also wanted to get healthy. He was limited to 126 games because of separate injuries to his hands.
"Those aren't the numbers I want," Heyward said of his 2017 stats, "but at the end of the day, going on the [disabled list] twice didn't help me. I know myself as a player, and games played is a big thing for me. When I get my repetition, I can do a lot of good things. I did a lot of good things to help us win on both sides of the ball, but there's more in there because there's more games to be played."
Davis had never talked to Heyward before they finally connected on the phone.
"I came here with no expectations," Davis said. "People have called me and said, 'Hey, you've got Jason. Here's what you may want to try.' I didn't even know him. I'm not going to go off your experience with him, I'm going to build my experience with him.
"He's either going to trust me or he's not," Davis said. "He's a great young man. I met his dad, I met his brother. I like what I see. One thing I can tell you with that kid is that from the month and a half, two months plus that I've been around him, he wants to get better and he'll work to get better. That's all I can ask."