Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

MESA, Ariz. -- In 2012, Jason Heyward's third season in the big leagues, he led the Braves with 27 homers and collected 82 RBIs. He spent this offseason in Arizona trying to get back that feeling he had at the plate.

Heyward felt the need to do something after his inaugural season with the Cubs, when he batted .230, hit a career-low seven homers and drove in 49 runs in 142 games.

"If you work on something and you feel comfortable with it and you work hard at it, then that's what you do," Heyward said. "At the same time, that's just work and the offseason. Paying attention to detail and making changes where they need to be made, you do that all the time. That's a never-ending process in baseball, especially in hitting.

"I'm not telling you I know for sure what's going to happen or I don't. I don't know how it's going to go, but I know I did a damned good job preparing for it."

As far as Heyward was concerned, it was a normal offseason. But it wasn't. He moved to Arizona and spent nearly every day at the Cubs' complex, working with former Braves teammate and current Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, who also lives in the area, and hitting coach John Mallee, who would fly in from Chicago for week-long sessions.

Being in Arizona helped Heyward simplify things.

"That was the best part of the offseason for me, in my mind, is to find stability," Heyward said. "You know it's going to be here. You know you can hit, you know you can run, you know you can train."

Despite being one of the many Cubs returning from the World Series championship team, Heyward said this year is a fresh start for everyone.

"We know what our goal is -- to win a World Series," Heyward said. "Everybody's hungry."

The 27-year-old secured a spot in Cubs lore when he delivered a players-only pep talk during the rain delay prior to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. The Indians had tied the game at 6 in the eighth, so Heyward called everyone into the weight room at Progressive Field.

"It was a moment where you feel like you need to say what you need to say, and I would've been [ticked] off at myself, win or lose, if I didn't say it at the time," Heyward said.

The Cubs responded with two runs in the 10th to win, 8-7, and end the longest championship drought in professional sports. Does he think the Cubs would've won without his speech?

"I think so," Heyward said. "I don't know, but I think so."

Heyward on team meeting

Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was not included in Heyward's meeting, is using that speech as part of his approach this season, telling players not to forget the heartbeat.

"I would say a high percentage of teams would've lost that game, but we were able to regroup and come back based on the heartbeat, and I wanted them to understand the heartbeat," said Maddon, who talked about that on Saturday during a team meeting when the first full-squad workout was forced inside because of rain. "That was the primary focus is that in our game today, the way it's run on a lot of levels, it's more about math than people. I wanted our guys to understand we understand the heartbeat."

Said Heyward: "He's got a slogan. That's what he does. He's able to think outside the box."

What's more important is that Heyward has no doubts that he'll return to the swing mechanics he had in 2012.

"If there's ever any doubt," Heyward said, "then I probably shouldn't be here."

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.