Chris Coghlan excited to return to 'best team in baseball'

ATLANTA -- The smile on (new) Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan told the story -- though in speaking with him he wanted to express total respect for his former team, the Oakland Athletics. The Cubs reacquired Coghlan on Thursday after a miserable start to his season that probably made him available to the Cubs in the first place.

“The bottom line is I didn’t perform well enough,” Coghlan said Friday afternoon. “That’s one of the burdens I felt for the guys. I didn’t help them win more.”

The A’s are in last place in the AL West as Coghlan hit just .146 before being dealt back to the Cubs for minor leaguer Arismendy Alcantara. It’s safe to say he’s happy to be reunited with his old pals, who welcomed him with open arms, including his manager.

“He’s very excited to be back,” Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said. “In talking to him, it was like 2015 all over again.

“I know he struggled in Oakland a bit. We didn’t consider that much of a big deal. In talking to him right now, I feel really confident he’s going to be fine.”

Maddon says he’ll use Coghlan primarily in left field as well as first base to spell Anthony Rizzo, but don’t expect to see him start at second or third base, as he did some last year, since the Cubs have Javier Baez, who can move around the diamond. As for struggling in Oakland, Coghlan didn’t make excuses but wanted to put it in the past.

“Things didn’t work out,” he said. “I’m grateful to be here now. Oakland was good to me.”

Coghlan hit a career-high 16 home runs for the Cubs last season and had some clutch moments during the team’s second-half surge, but his stroke isn’t there right now. On his first day back with the team, he was on the field early in 93-degree heat working with hitting coach John Mallee.

“The reason we hit early was to get caught up,” Coghlan said. “He watched what I did well and what I struggled with last year and how things went. ... It was an awesome first day.”

The biggest thing for Coghlan was returning to his “family.” The Cubs are about as tight-knit as they come, so fitting back in shouldn’t be a problem. He was a big part of the 97-win team of a year ago.

“When you have relationships with friends and you haven’t seen them for a while, then you see them and you smile and hug and it feels like you haven’t skipped a beat,” Coghlan said.

His teammates felt the same way. Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta took Coghlan to breakfast on Friday in advance of his first game in a Cubs uniform since last fall’s National League Championship Series.

“It’s great to see him,” Arrieta said. “We talked about our kids. We all know he’s really excited to be back and we’re happy to have him.”

But can Coghlan find that magic at the plate again? His future with the team could be at stake. Albert Almora already has shown he can save some runs in the outfield, while Tommy La Stella is still the Cubs' best pinch-hitter when healthy. And then there’s Jorge Soler, who is out with a hamstring injury but will be back. There’s competition for Coghlan, but at least he gets a do-over to his season.

“It’s amazing how things work out,” Coghlan said. “It was crushing for me and my family [to leave].

“The best thing about the whole thing is I get to come back here. It’s the best team in baseball.”