Cubs hoping to learn from failures during offensive struggles

Cubs hoping to learn from failures during offensive struggles
April 18, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

The Cubs' early-season offensive struggles come as no surprise, even to the most optimistic of fans.

This is not a team built to out-slug everybody like some of those old Colorado Rockies teams crafted for Coors Field.

The Cubs entered play Friday afternoon having gone almost five days since scoring their last run (a solo tally in the ninth inning of Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals). But instead of getting down on his team or benching players, manager Rick Renteria is treating it as a teaching moment.

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"It's like anything - we're a club that has to continue to learn how to tack on runs and/or put teams away offensively," Renteria said. "I think you learn those experiences through...failure."

As of Friday morning, the Cubs ranked 27th in Major League Baseball in runs scored (47), batting average (.230), on-base percentage (.293) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.195). They were shut out in both games against the New York Yankees in the Bronx during Wednesday's doubleheader and have been shut out four times already this season in 14 games.

"Situationally, the last couple of days, we've had some opportunity to push some runs across," Renteria said. "Maybe we've become a little anxious in our approaches at the plate. We're putting ourselves in a position or frame of mind that the pitcher is on the ropes in a particular situation and maybe we get outside of ourselves a little bit.

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"We don't want them to do too much...They're frustrated just as much as anybody else. I think the most important thing is to help them step away from that frustration and just to regroup and put their approaches back into play and see if we can maximize some run production."

So how can the Cubs change their mindset and get on track?

"You can take a step back - 'what was it that was going on? Well, I got a little accelerated and wanted to do too much,'" Renteria said. "'OK, well next time, you take a step back. We understand. We've seen it. We've experienced it. Let's see if we can get you in a better frame of mind the next time you get out there in that particular situation and see if you can have a chance to come through.'

[GIF: Billy Hamilton's embarrassing attempt at hitting a Samardzija pitch]

"There are no guarantees. You can have the best approach in the world and square up a ball and still have someone make a play."

Renteria has tried to mix-and-match the lineup, playing matchups and platoons. Nothing has seemed to stick yet, but the first-year manager isn't going to stop searching for the right batting order, especially with only Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo (and so far Emilio Bonifacio) locked in as full-time starters.

"I think we're still trying to do the best we can," Renteria said. "We're trying to match up guys and move them forward and taking it slow with other guys ... To me, it really is early to make a determination whether someone is ready to be changed out for another. These guys are all preparing the same way.

"Offense come and go. What I'm really happy with is our pitching has been doing a great job for us, especially our starting pitching. ... If we can keep that going and kind of chip away, when it starts to warm up, hopefully everybody starts to warm up, too."