CHICAGO -- Jason Heyward is thinking, and hoping to hit, like it's 2012.
The outfielder has become a gym rat at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., this offseason, reworking his swing after a disappointing first year in Chicago in which he batted .230 with seven homers and 49 RBIs. Heyward played Gold Glove defense in right field to help the Cubs win 103 games, and his speech to his teammates during the rain delay in Game 7 of the World Series inspired the team to an 8-7 victory and the championship. The focus now is to get Heyward's offense back to where he used to be.
"You get to a point where you just can't find yourself, and you have to take a step back, take a breather, and you take the offseason and assess what went wrong and figure out, where were you good? Where was Jason Heyward the best at?" Cubs hitting coach John Mallee said. "He's one of the best guys in baseball and we just lost it for a hair. You take him back to where he was good."
The 2012 season was Heyward's third in the big leagues, and he batted .269, but set career highs in home runs (27) and RBIs (82). That also was Heyward's target year.
"That's what I wanted to do [was find my approach in '12] and that's what I wanted to go back to," Heyward said Friday before the opening ceremony at the Cubs Convention. "[Mallee] and [assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske] were on the same page. It was pretty easy on that.
"I told them at the beginning, 'I'm all ears, I'm open to whatever we have to do to try, whether to get me comfortable, whatever it is. Talk to me, let me know what you've got and I'll try my best to do it and we'll go from there,'" Heyward said. "Sometimes you have to start over. I've done it before. It's not an easy thing. It's been a great process because we all have the same goal. We're trying to do it the same way and that makes it easier."
It's a lot easier for Heyward to make the adjustments on a back field in Mesa now than in the late innings of a close game in July.
"During the season, when you're trying to perform, as a human being you're going to go back to what you know," Mallee said. "During the season, it's so hard to [change] because you're trying to get a hit."
The Cubs aren't asking Heyward to add a leg kick or teach him to pull the ball more, just find the swing pattern he had when he was successful.
"The end game is getting him back to driving the baseball like he's capable of doing," Mallee said. "He's so committed to it. He's really making the adjustments."
Heyward moved to Arizona this offseason, and has worked primarily with Hinske, who also lives there.
"The good thing about Eric and his relationship, is that they played together [in Atlanta]," Mallee said. "When [Heyward] needs to bounce something off someone ... you've got somebody who's been in the trenches with you and who's stood in the box."
So far, so good.
"It's going well, I'm having fun," Heyward said. "It's one of the most fun offseasons I've had in a while. I know I'm going to be somewhere for a long time, knowing I'll see familiar faces. I get to be a gym rat and hang out at the complex."
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.