<
>

Mike Olt to work in the outfield

MILWAUKEE -- The Chicago Cubs aren't giving up on Mike Olt, but they might change their strategy with him after the 26-year-old struggled through much of his first year with the club.

Cubs president Theo Epstein said the team will talk with Olt about learning the corner outfield positions this winter as well as continuing to work at first and third base.

"He's always a threat against left-handed pitching, so he can be a guy that covers the four corners and mashes left-handed pitching," Epstein said before the Cubs played the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night. "That's a nice default for him if the opportunity to play every day doesn't materialize."

After struggling at the plate for nearly four months, Olt was sent to the minor leagues to figure things out. He made adjustments, had success at Triple-A and came back when rosters expanded in September. Things have gone well.

"The last two months have been good for me," Olt said. "Feeling more comfortable. Working the count."

"Comfortable" was about the last thing Olt was feeling for most of this season. After winning a roster spot with a solid spring training, he never got it going at the plate. His strikeout totals started to rise while his batting average and power dipped. He was hitting .139 when he was sent down to Triple-A in late July.

"For him, it's been mechanical adjustments," Epstein said. "He's got work to do. He's planning on spending the whole winter in Arizona."

After about a month at Triple-A, Olt said he thinks he has it figured out. He hit .302 with a .348 on-base percentage in 28 games and started to feel like himself again.

"My swing is a lot more simple," he said. "I had a high leg kick and my head is not moving. That's the biggest thing for me. I wasn't picking up pitches."

Olt says he wants a "wired stance" so there's less movement. One thing he's already doing is swinging at better pitches. Or, more to the point, not swinging at the bad ones. He has a .357 on-base percentage this month. That's a far cry from the .222 mark he produced before going to the minors. There's little doubt being sent down helped him.

"It did," Olt said. "And secretly in my head I knew something needed to happen. I needed to figure some things out. I knew I wasn’t right."

No longer is Olt next up among the prospects. There are so many coming for the Cubs that if one doesn't succeed in whatever first chance he gets, he goes to the back of the line. Chris Coghlan had to wait his turn and got that opportunity. Now, Olt has to find his way by contributing however the Cubs see fit. Working in the outfield will only increase his chances of getting that playing time.

"This has been a good thing for me," Olt said. "Deal with adversity early on in my career. You just have to be ready for anything.

"It's going to happen in baseball. I was happy to make an adjustment."