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Maddon instilling confidence in young sluggers

Cubs recall righty Pena from Triple-A; option Frankoff
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon isn't panicking that the young Cubs aren't hitting. At least not yet.

The day after a game in which the Cubs saw more than 180 pitches but tallied just three hits, the Cubs manager said a lot of the team's struggles can be chalked up to the nature of the roster.

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CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon isn't panicking that the young Cubs aren't hitting. At least not yet.

The day after a game in which the Cubs saw more than 180 pitches but tallied just three hits, the Cubs manager said a lot of the team's struggles can be chalked up to the nature of the roster.

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"These are young hitters, really young hitters, that are going through a tough moment," Maddon said. "You've got to stay with them. You just keep working the plan, and eventually it comes back to you."

Maddon, who has previous experience as a hitting coach, explained some of his philosophies with regard to hitting before Saturday's game against the Rockies. He talked about hitters being reactive and how most adjustments come from the mental side of the game, as well as the sheer volume of information available to hitters and how even that can be a negative sometimes.

"The information is outstanding," Maddon said. "Sometimes I only worry about giving too much information."

Right now, the challenge for Maddon and hitting coach John Mallee is to work through the current team struggles and get the Cubs back to their 2016 form. The Cubs entered Saturday ranking 16th in the Majors in on-base percentage; in '16, they finished second.

With those woes, several different mainstays in the lineup have seen their batting average drop off as well. Shortstop Addison Russell, for example, was hitting just .209 entering Saturday, while his OPS had declined by more than 100 points from the year before. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber also entered Saturday hitting just .170 in 2017 after missing almost all of '16 due to injury.

While the numbers seem stark, Maddon says there's really one area he thinks could help turn the offense around. It was something that was on display Friday, as the Cubs stranded 11 runners and loaded the bases twice with one out -- but didn't score either time.

"We're getting guys on base. On-base percentage isn't bad," Maddon said. "But the part of our game that's been the most lacking is our ability to move the baseball with people in scoring position once we've gotten there. That's the area that we've really got to get better at and focus on."

Video: CHC@HOU: Pena goes 1-2-3 in the 9th for the save

A short-lived stint

After getting called up on Thursday and making his Major League debut on Friday, reliever Seth Frankoff was optioned backed to Triple-A Iowa. The right-hander came on in relief of Mike Montgomery and allowed four hits and two runs in two innings in Friday's loss to the Rockies.

In a corresponding move, the team recalled right-hander Felix Pena from Triple-A. Pena has made four appearances with the Cubs this year and holds a 3.38 ERA. The right-hander held the Dodgers scoreless in his past two appearances, which spanned a total of three innings.

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs