December 9, 2022

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Wisdom: 'The clubhouse knows what I'm capable of'

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DENVER — Patrick Wisdom got some extra hitting in during an early round of batting practice before Friday’s game against the Rockies. The way Wisdom worked, and the way the ball was flying around Coors Field, gave manager David Ross confidence that a turning point loomed.

Sitting in the visitors’ dugout, Ross predicted that Wisdom would “get back on track soon,” even as the slugger was out of the starting lineup. Five hits, including four doubles, in a span of five at-bats in the two games since has supported that stance.

“It makes me look real smart,” Ross quipped.

During Saturday’s 9-6 loss to the Rockies, Wisdom had three hits in his first three trips to the plate. That followed a pair of doubles off the bench late in Friday’s loss to Colorado. This is still small-sample season, but a stretch like that can go a long way.

Ross had Wisdom on the bench to start Friday’s game as the third baseman fought to break out of a 1-for-21 skid to start the season. That type of early drought can toy with a hitter’s confidence, especially after an offseason and spring focused on approach and swing adjustments.

“The clubhouse knows what I’m capable of — the hitter I am,” Wisdom said after finishing his round of pregame BP on Saturday. “They know the process and they understand that this game is hard. And 20 at-bats don’t define me.

“It’s tough. Trust me, I don’t want to go up there and do bad. I don’t sleep at night. This stuff’s hard and it gets at me just like anyone else.”

Last year, Wisdom showed he was capable of prodigious power when he received his first extended opportunity in the Majors. He established the Cubs’ single-season rookie home run record with 28, breaking a mark set by Kris Bryant in his remarkable 2015 season.

Wisdom also struck out at a 40.8 percent clip, something he aimed to improve ahead of this year. He has concentrated on avoiding the temptation of high fastballs, and worked to be more direct to the ball with his swing (a subtle tweak involving his back elbow positioning).

What Wisdom knows he can’t do is abandon all that behind-the-scenes work just because of a slow start.

“If it’s not going well, I can’t veer off,” Wisdom said. “I can’t go up there and hit left-handed now. I’ve got to stay with it. In the long run, it’s better just to stay with it. Don’t panic. If I strike out, I want to hit like Vlad Guerrero. I want to hit like Mike Trout next time, see if that works.

“But, is that who I am? No. But you see that kind of thing and you’re like, ‘All right, that didn’t work. Maybe I’ll try something else.’ Next thing you know, you tried all these things and I don’t even know who I am.

“Who is Patrick Wisdom now? I step in like, ‘Is this where I stand now?’ All those thoughts run through our head as hitters.”

Wisdom is the kind of hitter who can rip a 1-0 fastball from Colorado’s Antonio Senzatela 106.6 mph off the right-center wall for a double on Saturday. He followed that with a 101.5 mph, two-run double in the seventh. One night earlier, his ninth-inning double off Daniel Bard split the left-center gap at 108.9 mph.

Wisdom is the kind of hitter who can ride those kinds of streaks to eye-popping power totals, as he did in stretches a year ago. He is also the type of slugger who might have a grand slam already had Wrigley Field’s winds not been in full effect on April 9.

“We can talk mechanics a lot,” Ross said. “Sometimes just having that confidence and feeling good makes a big difference.”

And with that confidence, Wisdom knows he can fend off all the talking points about his swing and statistics.

“We all create a story in our head,” he said. “I have the pen in my hand. I can write the story.”

Wisdom admitted to overthinking at times — focusing on his setup in the box instead of just trusting the work and relying on reactions. Along those lines, he was happy with the two doubles off the bench Friday, because that was more about natural instincts than preparation.

Those hits helped Wisdom breathe a little easier heading into Saturday. All he did from there was help lead a 13-hit attack, as Chicago attempted the kind of comeback Coors Field often allows.

“If I can just shut off the brain,” Wisdom said, “shut off the thoughts, shut off everybody’s expectations and just be me, I don’t have to live up to what everybody thinks. That’s just being human. If we can just do that, I think we’d all be better off.”

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