Change helps Cubs' Mather to hit on 21

CHICAGO -- If it was a tribute that Joe Mather was trying to accomplish then he couldn’t have done it much better.

The slumping super sub, who was in an 0-for-14 slide at the plate, came home Monday from the road trip to follow through on a uniform change.

Mather switched his No. 16 for the No. 21, a move he had been contemplating for a little while, and promptly crushed a two-run home run in his second at-bat of the night.

“I had it in high school and it had always been a favorite of mine,” Mather said. “I always see the highlight of Roberto Clemente running around and I see the 21 on his back and always liked that. I always wanted myself to look like that.”

Career-wise Mather knows there isn’t a match, but he channeled Clemente for a night anyway, especially with the line-drive home run that cut through a stiff breeze blowing in from left field.

“We were talking about it earlier that if you get it up you better run because your only shot is it falling and you getting a double,” Mather said. “I was lucky enough to get a pitch up and get the right trajectory on it.”

The irony is that had Mather been more Clemente-like this season, he might not have been able to make the number change. The collective bargaining agreement prohibits high-profile players from changing their number during the season unless they buy back all of the merchandise for sale with their number on it.

In Mather’s case that wasn’t an issue and with that new number on his back, he found the perfect way to christen it.

“It was nice,” Mather said. “It was a good way to break it in, that’s for sure. I didn’t want anybody talking about it. It was good. I liked it.”