Zobrist, Heyward working hard to end slumps

Maddon confident Cubs duo will get on track in the near future

Zobrist, Heyward working hard to end slumps

MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs knew Ben Zobrist wasn't going to bat .406 the entire year, as he did in May. They also know Jason Heyward is better than his .231 average would indicate. Both players took early batting practice Saturday, but their efforts weren't enough to beat the Brewers.

Zobrist ended an 0-for-24 skid with a single in the seventh and finished 2-for-4, while Heyward was 1-for-4 in the Cubs' 6-1 loss to the Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park.

"[Zobrist] is not going to be what you saw at the beginning of the year all year long," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Saturday. "I've seen him go through difficult moments in the past and he's come out on the other side. He's one of those guys who even when he's going through difficult moments will get on base, take his walk. He'll still do something on a particular night."

Maddon saw Zobrist throw his bat in frustration after an at-bat on Friday, and says that's not a signal that he's fatigued, but that he's upset at himself for missing his pitch or expanding the strike zone.

Heyward had a good batting practice on Friday and was on the field again early Saturday with hitting coaches John Mallee and Eric Hinske. During Saturday's session, Heyward was launching balls into the upper deck in right field. Practice makes perfect, Maddon said.

"In my experience, that's the first sign that it's on its way," Maddon said. "[Heyward] and Johnny have been working on different things to get the ball in the air more. ... I'm just going off my experience -- [Heyward needs to] just stay with it, stay with it, be patient, be patient. He hasn't hit his potential yet, but I believe he will. I think once he gets it, we'll be pretty happy about it. Sometimes you have to struggle through some difficult moments to get to the end result you're looking for."

This is Heyward's first season with the Cubs after signing an eight-year, $184 million contract. Could Heyward be trying to do too much?

"He may be," Maddon said. "I think the most prominent point is he's making adjustments now that will benefit him and us in the long term. ... I'm seeing a lot of progress. I believe it will translate into the game. His practice is way too good."

Does Heyward feel better at the plate after the recent work?

"At times I do, at times I don't," he said. "That's the way everybody is at the plate. It's kind of like beating a dead horse right now with the fact that a lot of times I hit it hard at the wrong spot. That's not really seeing much of results. Home runs are awesome, but still, you want to get hits, you want to keep the line moving. When you're able to do that, you can have big innings, you can help contribute to big innings and help push a run across. Sometimes I feel good, sometimes I don't. It doesn't matter. You just go up there to compete and I'm trying to help the team out."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.