Joc Pederson starting to heat up for the Cubs at the right timeRussell Dorseyon May 12, 2021 at 10:32 pm

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Pederson had another big day at the plate, going 3-for-5 in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday.

CLEVELAND – Like many Cubs’ players the month of April was not kind to outfielder Joc Pederson, but it looks like he’s starting to heat things up.

Pederson was the hottest hitter on the planet coming out of spring training as he hit a league-leading eight homers. But when the team headed to Chicago to start the season, he quickly fell on hard times.

Things had begun to spiral for the Cubs’ outfielder, hitting .137 (7-for-51) with one homer in 16 games before left wrist inflammation landed him on the 10-day injured list. But after a quick stint on the IL, Pederson has gotten locked in.

“Baseball is a strange game and sometimes it speeds up on you pretty quickly,” Pederson said after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss. “Unfortunately, I was on the IL, but you just have to make the best of a situation and get your mind back locked in so that you’re ready to go out there, compete and help the team win.

Pederson is having a monster month of May and continued his hot hitting in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss in 10 innings to the Indians with three more hits on Wednesday, going 5-for-10 in the two-game set.

The improved offense by Pederson has come at the right time as the Cubs have been hit by several injuries to position players over the last two weeks. The 29-year-old outfielder is hitting .444 (12-for-27) since returning from the IL on May 4.

Pederson looked like a shell of himself during April, but has looked like the player who was raking when the team left Arizona at the end of March.

“I was able to take a break mentally from that [stretch],” Pederson said. “Kind of been doing the same thing in the cage. Sometimes you put good swings on it, sometimes you don’t. You just keep it moving and stay positive.”

Manager David Ross had spoken all spring and during the early portion of the season about how he would give Pederson every opportunity to succeed, including against left-handed pitching, which has historically given Pederson problems.

“I think his timing. His timing is in sync, he’s using all fields,”Ross said. “I really thought he was pulling his hands in well when they’re trying to pitch him in. He’s stayed on some lefties and taken some balls up the middle, the other way.

“There’s been a whole field approach not trying to do too much. Touch the baseball when he has two strikes on him and he’s swinging for power when he’s in hitter’s counts.

Pederson’s offensive resurgence has mirrored an improved offensive stretch as a team. The Cubs didn’t have much to celebrate offensively, going 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the two games in Cleveland, but also collected 20 hits in the series. They’re hitting .260 as a club over their last 14 games, which ranks third in MLB over that stretch.

While the injuries will never be a team’s excuse, it is the Cubs’ reality that they’ve been without much of their lineup this month and have still found some offensive footing. When the likes of Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Jake Marisnick are healthy, things could really begin to turn.

“We’re banged up, but the grit, determination, fight and how these guys approached really good pitching while short-handed, I’ve been impressed with, to be honest with you,” Ross said “I would definitely say, I like where we’re at.”

“We’re close,” Pederson said. “Things are coming. The pitching has been great. We’re moving in the right direction.”

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