Cubs' Stewart shows that persistence pays

CINCINNATI -- After a hard-luck opening to the season, where he has now lost track of how many line-drive outs he’s made, Ian Stewart drilled an elusive home run.

So of course afterward, the thing he wanted to talk about first was the bare-hand pickup of a roller down the third base line and his on-the-run throw across the diamond to retire Drew Stubbs.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense so for me making a god pay in the field can sometimes top having a base hit,” Stewart said.

This wasn’t just any base hit, though. Stewart entered the game batting just .169, although he has hit the ball much better than that. He has refused to hang his head over his bad luck, though, and has stayed positive through pats on the back from teammates and encouragement from coaches.

“That’s the only thing probably keeping me sane,” Stewart said of the knowledge he’s hit the ball hard and just doesn’t have anything to show for it. “I feel like you can probably count on two hands [the hard-hit outs]. But that’s part of the game and if that happens and I’m swinging the bat well and the numbers aren’t there then there is still enough to take away from those at-bats."

Stewart’s home run seemed to come right on cue as manager Dale Sveum gave his third baseman a vote of confidence before the game.

“It’s not as bad as the numbers look so I’m not all that concerned,” Sveum said. “The way he’s played defense and still centering balls up it’s still not as bad as it looks.”

So while others with a .173 batting average during the first week of May might start tinkering with things, Stewart will keep his swing right where it is. He poured over video this weekend and saw that his mechanics are right where he wants them to be.

“The people who have been at the games and all my teammates know I’ve been hitting some balls hard,” Stewart said. “A lot of at-’em balls you can say, although that’s kind of cliché. I just feel like if I keep getting in my work with [hitting coach] Rudy [Jaramillo] and with Dale those are going to turn into base hits and extra-base hits. If I can get hot it will just help the team even more.”