Bryan LaHair’s homer drought doesn’t concern Cubs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 1, 2012 8:04PM
Bryan LaHair is hitting .414 (12-for-29) with six doubles in his last eight games. | Getty Images
Updated: May 3, 2012 8:13AM
TEMPE, Ariz. — Bryan LaHair doesn’t have any home runs this spring, and with his back acting up recently, he doesn’t appear likely to hit any before the Cubs break camp after their final exhibition game Tuesday.
But if you’re looking for somebody who’s worried about that, don’t bother looking in the Cubs’ clubhouse.
‘‘People forget that home runs come in bunches, and you need 600 at-bats to hit 25, 30 home runs,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘He’s hit plenty of balls off the walls. Home runs aren’t as important as driving in runs and slugging percentage.
‘‘Slugging percentage is the key, whether it’s doubles with two guys on, one guy on and he scores from first or whatever. It’s not the home runs. That’s what gets a lot of people in trouble. Forty doubles, 20 home runs is a pretty nice slugging percentage that you end up with.’’
It’s not like anyone believes the home runs won’t be there. Last year, LaHair hit 38 in Class AAA, two more in the big leagues after a September call-up and added 15 more in winter ball. That’s 55 home runs in 2011.
LaHair said his spring plan was to build up to peak hitting shape by late March. He seemed to be right on target until he felt tightness in his back, which has sidelined him the last two days.
He’s 12-for-29 (.414) with six doubles in his last eight games after going 6-for-32 (.188) with one double before that.
Getting the home-run power might be just a matter of getting over the back tightness. LaHair said Sunday it already was much improved.
‘‘He had some discomfort down the leg, so there is obviously something there with a nerve or whatever,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He probably could have played [Sunday]. Hopefully, we’ll have him in there [Monday], but if not, then the last day.’’
Sveum said he’s no closer to making the final calls on his bullpen than when he set the rest of his Opening Day roster Thursday.
That’s mostly because he still doesn’t know all of his options. The front office continues to troll for last-minute additions.
‘‘I don’t know of any talk or anything like that,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, there’s a chance of somebody getting released and stuff like that in the next few days. There is always an opportunity or possibility.’’
Matt Garza got his final tuneup before his season debut Saturday against the Washington Nationals, throwing four scoreless innings in a minor-league game Sunday. He struck out six, walked none and threw 51 pitches before throwing a few more in the bullpen.
◆ Setup man Kerry Wood makes his final appearance of the spring Monday with an emphasis on getting him a full inning after outings of only five and four pitches the last two times out.