-- CHICAGO -- Struggling Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward didn't deny the pressure and focus of being the new guy with a big contract is contributing to his woes -- just as it did Jon Lester a year ago -- but he's not willing to use that as an excuse and strongly believes better days are ahead.
"You could say it's a little bit of all of the above but at the same time I think I was right around doing the same thing same time last year," Heyward said after the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. "It happens. I've been a slow starter. I've done that before and bounced back and no one is thinking about April and May."
Heyward had a hit and a walk Wednesday but that won't erase the perception that he is struggling at the plate. His situational numbers are especially revealing -- even for a .212 hitter -- as he leads the team in strikeouts (14) with men on-base and has only advanced a runner from second to third with no outs 50 percent of the time.
He accomplished that at a 71 percent clip last year. And he hasn't hit a home run as a Cub yet. None of this means he's going to have a bad season but for a small sample size it's not pretty.
"Timing wise is off," Heyward explained. "If you're not on time then you're not going to make the best decisions or get the most results out of your at-bats."
Heyward must have had a feeling reporters wanted to talk to him after Game 1 as he was about the only Cub at his locker stall after a rare defeat. He left four men on-base and continues to just miss making good contact -- at least on fair balls.
"I see him more on time so that's a good thing," Manager Joe Maddon said. "He's hit some hard balls foul."
Heyward claims a previous sore wrist is doing just fine but even after taking a few days off recently to heal up he's still not hitting the ball with authority.
According to ESPN Stats and Information since returning to the lineup over the last week his ground ball rate has increased while his line drive percentage has been cut in half compared to before he left the lineup.
"Handling failure is part of the game," Heyward said. "I just feel right now just getting timing back...Once I get my timing back its going to be great.
Maddon believes the same and has shown no indication he'll drop Heyward in the lineup - he's batting second in Game 2 again - nor does he believe things are weighing on him too heavily. "Not when I talk to him," Maddon said. "The conversations are easy. The work is fine. "Just a matter of time. He's gone through this before."
Maybe it's all about being a slow starter and nothing more. Over the course of his career Heyward's on-base percentage increases every single month of the season.
He's below his normal pace right now but that doesn't mean he can't catch up. The Cubs are winning without his offense which makes it an easier pill to swallow.
"We're 26 (25) and whatever," Heyward said. "That helps as well."
When asked if he's confident Heyward will get break out his manager didn't pause.
"He will," Maddon said. "I have no doubt he will."