Thursday, June 12, 2014
Mike Olt not thinking about a demotion
By Jesse Rogers
PITTSBURGH -- On the same night Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was expressing his confidence at the plate, teammate Mike Olt's body language wasn't revealing anything close to it.
Olt didn't start against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday; instead, he flied out as a pinch hitter. But when lefty Francisco Liriano was on the mound Tuesday Olt was in there because he's back to being a platoon player.
Mike Olt is hitless in June and has not hit a home run since May 18.
But watching two called strike threes prompted Cubs manager Rick Renteria to pinch hit for Olt as soon as the Pirates brought in a righty. His replacement, Luis Valbuena, promptly doubled home two runs and helped win the game for the Cubs. It was another tough night in a frustrating season for Olt, who is trying to keep his head up.
"I've been in these things before," he said before Wednesday's game. "Everyone has. Just have to go back to relaxing and forget about everything else."
But can he? With every passing day, the call for new blood from the minors goes out while Valbuena is having a good season himself. Meanwhile, Olt is hitting .150 with 57 strikeouts in 140 at-bats.
That batting average and those strikeouts stick out like sore thumbs. He has played in only five games this season during which he has had more than one at-bat without striking out at least once.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, he'd rank 10th worst in swing-and-miss percentage (34.2) if he had enough at-bats to qualify. And he puts himself in a pitcher's count in 52.8 percent of his plate appearances; that's almost 10 points higher than the league average.
"You get into a funk and fall behind in the count," Olt said. "That happened earlier in the season."
Olt seems to be replaying the early portion of his season. And falling behind in the count has been his Achilles' heel.
He started out as a somewhat struggling part-time player, but his mammoth power kept him in the game. His playing time increased as he reached nine home runs by mid-May, then a new slide occurred. And he hasn't been able to come out of it. He's still stuck on nine homers.
So back to the bench he went.
He says none of his issues are health related. Olt had his troubles last season due to vision problems, but he claims that's not a problem now.
"When a guy isn't getting the results and looks like he's pressing you do have to be mindful," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "You know you have an extreme amount of confidence in them. The thing is them believing in themselves."
There's that word again: confidence. Rizzo expressed how much he has it. On Tuesday, Rizzo homered and doubled twice. Olt is trying to find his again.
"Baseball is all about confidence," Olt said. "Obviously, I'm not as confident now. You're going to go through times when you're not confident and still get hits. When you get that feeling back you go with it."
Time might be running out from him to get it back.
Renteria hasn't intimated that a change might occur, but everyone knows the Cubs will make some trades and roster spots will open. A shuffling of the deck is bound to happen and that could find Olt, who is hitless in June with seven strikeouts, back in the minors.
"I'm not worried about that," Olt said. "I'm just going to work hard to get back on track. When you're in the minor leagues, you're not worried about when you're moving up. It's the same here. I'm not thinking about that stuff."
Renteria has shown patience, but that doesn't mean it will last forever.
"Is there a moment when you sit back and say, 'Do we have to make an adjustment?'" Renteria asked rhetorically. "Yeah, but that's not where we're at right now."