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After slow start, Heyward's hard work pays off

Cubs outfielder halts 0-for-15 skid with HR, 2-run 2B
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It is Spring Training, but after all the time and effort Jason Heyward devoted this offseason to reworking his swing, going 0-for-15 still hurt a little.

"[Going] 0-for-15 will get you whenever," Heyward said.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- It is Spring Training, but after all the time and effort Jason Heyward devoted this offseason to reworking his swing, going 0-for-15 still hurt a little.

"[Going] 0-for-15 will get you whenever," Heyward said.

View Full Game Coverage

He ended that skid Monday when the Cubs outfielder led off the second inning against the Angels with his first hit, a home run over the right-field fence at Tempe Diablo Stadium in a 13-10 Cubs victory. Heyward didn't stop there, adding a two-run double in the fourth. He knew the hits would come.

"Every day in [batting practice], I feel amazing, so it's just putting it together at game speed and working to do that and working hard and working smart," Heyward said. "It gives you that vote of confidence that you know you're going to get it done. You just have to keep going, and keep trying to find that right timing."

The home run gave Cubs fans at the game something to cheer about. Heyward was happier about the double off Angels lefty Greg Mahle.

Video: CHC@LAA: Heyward rips a two-run double to left

"I'm in love with that one," Heyward said. "Those are much tougher to come by, especially with two outs, in those situations. It's good to get back to back tough lefties."

All spring, Heyward has said he's felt good at the plate after spending the winter at the Cubs' complex working on his swing with hitting coaches John Mallee and Eric Hinske. After batting .230 and hitting a career-low seven home runs last season, his first with Chicago, Heyward felt he had to do something. The goal has been to get back to his 2012 form when he hit a career-high 27 home runs.

"It'd be weird if I was trying to do something I've never done," Heyward said.

This spring, he's been playing in games for two days, then taking a day off to hit in the cages.

"I feel like the last couple days, we've gone in the right direction -- we've been going in the right direction all along -- but the last piece was timing and feeling that out and me being able to tell myself when to go and when to get ready," Heyward said. "Today, I got to see myself and feel myself in game action do it the right way and give myself enough time to take good swings and fight off a tough pitch and get to the next pitch."

Video: CHC@LAA: Heyward lays out for nice diving catch

What may have helped a little is not batting leadoff. The Cubs have had Heyward at the top of the order to give him more at-bats but he batted fifth Monday.

"I feel like when you hit later in the lineup, you get a chance to see the game, feel the game out, see the starter, get some pitches," Heyward said.

There were lots of positives Monday, and that's all the Cubs are hoping for.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Jason Heyward