Heyward heeds advice to cut pregame work

Maddon praises right fielder's defense, presence in lineup

Heyward heeds advice to cut pregame work

CHICAGO -- Jason Heyward has been told to cut back on his pregame work before, so the Cubs' request that the outfielder reduce the amount of time in the batting cage was nothing new.

"It's not the first time I've been asked to do less," Heyward said Tuesday before the Cubs' 3-0 win over the Pirates. "I used to shag a lot in the outfield, and my coach told me, 'No shagging.' It's learning when to back off, or knowing when to back off. It's a group effort. Everybody knows we're trying to get better every day."

Heyward has gone into the batting cage after a game and hit for another hour to work on things, but says he's heeding the Cubs' advice regarding extra work.

"Right now, it's just go back to normal," he said.

Normal has been good of late for Heyward, who has hit in seven of his last eight games, and was 10-for-33 since his three-game break Aug. 19-21 when he sat during the Cubs' series in Colorado.

"His swings are better, they're more on time, the contact is harder," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I think his confidence is climbing back up, and I think he thinks he's going to get a hit. It's difficult to reset in season. I give Jason credit. If anybody can do it, I think he can. He knows what's at stake for us, he's the consummate team player."

Maddon says Heyward has one motive and that's to win every day. Even if he's not hitting, Heyward contributes in the field with Gold Glove-caliber defense.

"I think his presence counts," Maddon said. "When his name's in that lineup, we just look thicker -- we just do."

Heyward is batting .231 overall, and he sees progress.

"I'm just keeping it simple and trying to be consistent with timing and getting good pitches to hit and swing at those," Heyward said. "The more times you do that, the more times you'll get on base. If I'm able to do that, it helps the team a lot. It takes all of us, but to keep that line moving, and one extra hit helps a lot."

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.