Cubs: Chris Coghlan feels like it's him against the world

Cubs: Chris Coghlan feels like it's him against the world
July 29, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

Chris Coghlan would be lying if he said he never thought about the future.

The 29-year-old outfielder signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs prior to the season and is under team control through 2017. But at 29 and in a crowded outfield, Coghlan's future in Chicago is uncertain.

Coghlan could provide value to a contending team down the stretch as a fourth outfielder/role player and a deal may materialize before Thursday's non-waiver trading deadline. But he could also stick around Chicago as a cost-controlled outfield option who is known as a good clubhouse guy.

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Coghlan knows all about adversity, making the journey from a 2006 first-round pick (36th overall) to the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year with the Marlins, to bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues. He's struggled to stay on the field and even when he has been healthy, consistent playing time has been hard to find.

He fell out of favor in Miami and has had to prove himself over and over again the last few seasons.

"I think you always have to have the mentality of a survivor, a fighter," Coghlan said. "I learned at a very young age that you have to prove yourself every single day. It doesn't matter if you're a prospect (because they'll eventually give up on you if you don't produce) or if you're a proven guy (because they're always looking for a prospect).

"There's always somebody that they're talking about that they think can do a better job. I look at it that every single day, I have to prove that I'm a better option to help the team win than anybody else they're thinking of.

"So I put my main focus on what I can do today to help the team win. The playing time and all that stuff, I can't take care of any of that. That's what I try to think and always take it as me against the world mentality."

Coghlan began the year with Triple-A Iowa, but was called up to Chicago when Ryan Sweeney hit the disabled list. He received sporadic playing time initially, but has seen his name in the starting lineup just about every day in July and made the most of it with a .355 average and 1.037 OPS for the month.

Are the Cubs auditioning him for a potential trade or just riding the hot bat?

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Either way, Coghlan's attitude hasn't changed.

"I really have no security in playing time, so every day, I have to prove myself," he said. "Every at-bat, every time I'm in the field, I'm out there to prove that I can help this team win every day. I don't feel secure in anything."

The Cubs have a surplus of outfielders right now and the situation will only get more murky as the season wears on. Theo Epstein's front office doesn't have to get rid of players like Sweeney or Justin Ruggiano, veterans who are under team control through at least 2015.

But the Cubs have already brought up Arismendy Alcantara, who has seen some time in center field as he transitions to the new position. Jorge Soler is already on the 40-man roster and if he keeps raking in the minor leagues, could be up in Chicago in September.

With the youth movement on Chicago's North Side, the Cubs will eventually need to keep guys like Coghlan, Sweeney and Ruggiano to provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse and set the example for the top prospects.

Part of the reason Coghlan has been playing so much lately is due to the struggles of Junior Lake, who is mired in a 3-for-34 slump in July. Lake has hit just .144 with a .420 OPS since May 28 with 44 strikeouts in 42 games.

But Lake is still only 24 and has shown flashes of his potential with a rare combination of power and speed.

Coghlan understands the value of a player fighting through adversity and coming out on the other side. The six-year veteran credits his recent career revival to his "me against the world" mentality.

But even with that "day-to-day" mindset, Coghlan admits his mind sometimes wanders in thinking about his future.

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"I'm human, so that happens," he said. "I'd be lying if I said that never happens. But, I can't control the future. Anytime that 'human-ness' comes out and wants to go, 'Oh man, what do you think is gonna happen next year or what happened here or how about when they call these guys up?'

"I can't do that because I can't control that. I'm only promised today. This is the only day that I have, so I gotta stay focused on what I gotta do today to help the team win. Lord willing, I go to sleep and I wake up the next day and do the same thing. I mean, that's the grind. That's what I gotta do every day until the season is over.

"Day-by-day, out-by-out, pitch-by-pitch. Every once in a while, do [thoughts of the future] come up? Yeah. But I just try to take that thought captive, rip it up, throw it away and get back on my grind."