Floyd keeping things simple at plate

Floyd keeping things simple at plate

MESA, Ariz. -- If any of the 12,727 fans at HoHoKam Park on Sunday saw Cliff Floyd play baseball at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Ill., they might have had a flashback when he hit a monster home run in the fifth inning.

The ball, which was the first hit of the game off the Angels' Ervin Santana, sailed over the two bullpens beyond right field and landed in front of a hospitality tent. It easily traveled more than 400 feet.

Floyd used to hit home runs like that at Thornwood, only then he could aim at the football field beyond the right-field fence.

"Sometimes you have to think that way when you're not feeling good at the plate," Floyd said. "It's better to go up and see the ball and hit it like it was a high school game. The simpler you keep it, the better. It's always that way. It's amazing -- you get away from that sometimes because you want to impress so badly.

"It's so simple -- I try to keep it in my mind, I want to see the ball and hit it," he said. "If I do that, I have pretty good results. I get caught up in really wanting to impress and doing well that you get out of your element. It hurts you more than it helps you."

Floyd, who also drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run in the Cubs' 3-2 loss to the Angels, may have a tough time trying not to show off in front of the hometown fans in Chicago.

"I'm going home, and I'm looking forward to it," he said. "For me, the best part about going back home is going home with a good team.

"I could've signed to play and make my money, and be happy to get an opportunity to play again -- I make a ton of money," he said. "I want to win, I want to win bad. To go home with the team we have, in my eyes, is going to be something. I feel it. I hate making those kinds of predictions, but I feel we have a really good team.

"For me, I was on a couple bad teams early in my career, and I've been on good teams, and I've seen the difference every Spring Training," he said.

He would know. He has a World Series ring from the 1997 Florida Marlins team, and reached the National League Championship Series last year with the New York Mets. He's coming off surgery on his Achilles tendon, and the Cubs have been careful with him this spring. Floyd has 25 at-bats, while Jacque Jones, Derrek Lee, Matt Murton and even Felix Pie have more than 50 so far.

Floyd, 34, did go down to the Minor Leagues for some extra at-bats at the suggestion of hitting coach Gerald Perry.

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"Seeing these guys up here does me a lot better than going down there," Floyd said. "I don't want to knock it because [Perry] believes in it. I took it seriously and I did well. But by the time I see these kids [in the big leagues], heck, I'll be sitting in the stands with my own kids."

Apparently, the Minor League pitchers he faced tried to pound fastballs past Floyd. Let's just say Floyd made the pitcher pay.

On Sunday, he was more impressed with the bases-loaded walk in the eighth than his home run. Floyd came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth on Sunday, and popped up. In the eighth, he was patient, even though he fell behind, 0-2, in the count.

"I should've been more patient with the first at-bat with the bases loaded," he said. "For me, it's just getting more at-bats and getting more comfortable, and knowing I can help this team. That's all I want to do."

His foot has responded well. He hasn't tried to steal bases, but that may come. He's talked to Cubs manager Lou Piniella about his role, and seems OK with it.

The only possible snag this season is if too many friends and family start demanding more tickets than the six he's given to his parents to distribute.

"If they need more than that," he said, "I'm going to have problems."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.