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Coghlan proving he belongs with Cubs

8/14/2014

CHICAGO -- On June 1, Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan was hitting .139. On July 1, he was "up" to .206.

That's when things took off. Coghlan has been on a six-week tear, solidifying the leadoff role and left field as well as rejuvenating a career that got off to a promising start with a National League Rookie of the Year debut in 2009 with the then-Florida Marlins.

"I came out here one off day with [assistant hitting coach] Mike Brumley and hit," Coghlan said Wednesday before going 3-for-4 in a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. "I can't remember when, but it was around that time [early July]. We looked at some video and I just wasn't getting consistently to the same hitting slot as I should have. We made some changes on that and it's just carried over."

Coghlan is hitting .291 after a .376 July. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) has been off the charts. After Wednesday's game it's 1.033, tops in the National League and second in all of baseball since July 1.

"It's health and opportunity," Coghlan said. "I've had some freak stuff happen to me, which has hindered my career, but it's made me a better player and teammate so it's tough to say it was all a bad thing."

The mechanical change has resulted in a lot of hard-hit balls. That's all any player can ask for. And most of the time they've been falling in. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Coghlan is posting a career high 27.5 percent line-drive percentage. Since July 1, it's up to 31 percent. His hard-hit average in the same time, assessed by the Inside Edge Scouting service, is .276, second in the NL only behind Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona.

Has Coghlan proved enough to return in 2015? You better believe it. He's under team control for two more years after this one and the Cubs have already said they could use a few veterans as they transition to a younger group. At 29, Coghlan is no longer the prospect who batted .321 with a .390 OBP to win NL Rookie of the Year in 2009. He has had to fight his way back from some struggles that landed him in spring training as a non-roster invitee.

"When you're a prospect, they open the doors for you, and rightfully so. But when you're older it's just tough to get another shot," Coghlan said.

He waited his turn, starting the season at Triple-A Iowa. Ryan Kalish beat him out but didn't last long, and when Junior Lake's season started to tailspin, Coghlan got his chance.

"I don't hang my hat on anything," he said of the future. "I've played enough and done enough of the one-year thing and seen enough of non-tenders and stuff like that I can't think about it. The only time it comes up is when a reporter asks me. I've got to grind for five more weeks."

After a 2-for-17 mini-slump, he asked for more time with Brumley and hitting coach Bill Mueller. Well before Wednesday's game, he could be seen in the cage working on his game. He doubled and then singled in his first two at-bats. Later, he doubled again.

"About two months ago, we changed some things in his approach and that's made the difference for him," Mueller said. "He's very cognitive of his mechanics."

Everyone likes a comeback story and Coghlan is it for the Cubs.

"One hundred percent I like the swings I'm taking," he said. "I can only control my approach. I try to win each pitch and each at-bat. That doesn't mean I'll get a hit."

But it certainly has happened a lot more often since July.