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How Miles Mastrobuoni stayed ready and stepped up when Cubs needed him the most

10 months agoAndy Martinez

In his first month since being recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 19, Miles Mastrobuoni had just 4 plate appearances.

The team had recalled the infielder to primarily serve as a pinch-runner and depth option on their bench. But when the injury bug pressed the 27-year-old into a heavier workload, he’s responded — and doesn’t look like a player who had hardly been in the batter’s box in a competitive game recently.

Mastrobuoni had 5 hits, including 2 extra-base hits over his last two starts entering Friday’s series opener against the Rockies and has been a stabilizing force at the hot corner in the Cubs’ chase for a postseason spot.

“I think just doing anything to help the team win is rewarding,” Mastrobuoni said. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day. That’s all I’m focused on.”

That was his approach during the last month when his playing time was sporadic. Instead of sulking over his lack of appearances, Mastrobuoni continued to put work in behind the scenes and before games so that he would be ready when and if the call came.

“I try to take game reps,” Mastrobuoni said. “I try to put myself in situations and it is a little bit slower when you’re in the cage compared to the game, but you try and treat it the same and take those reps and stay ready.”

That’s been the approach many of the Cubs’ young players have had in this stretch run. Players like Mastrobuoni, Alexander Canario and Pete Crow-Armstrong won’t be regulars in the lineup for David Ross, but they’ll still be called upon at various moments. And when they do, the Cubs hope their work in between appearances will have them ready.

“To their credit, all these young guys, they’re out here early, they’re hitting off the trajectory machines, and they’re doing a really nice job of trying to stay ready with their timing,” Ross said.

Mastrobuoni’s recent success is a testament to that. The left-handed hitter admitted he hasn’t really found his “rhythm” this season. Between parachuting up and down between Triple-A and sporadic playing time, it could be easy to see that being an issue.

His last go around in Iowa, Mastrobuoni was having success, but still felt just a tick off. When he was recalled on Aug. 19, he looked at video trying to find that missing prompt.

Then, one day, it clicked.

“I have to rock back to kinda — what I call — store energy,” Mastrobuoni said. “A smaller guy like me, I kinda need everything that I can get, so that was a big cue for me. When I get back to that position, everything kinda just works the way I want it from there.”

That’s been a big revelation for the Cubs. With injuries to Jeimer Candelario and Nick Madrigal, Mastrobuoni has been thrust into duty as Ross’ preferred choice at third base, especially against right-handed pitchers.

“He’s been great, man,” Ross said. “I just can’t say enough about the young guys and how they’ve just bought into the role. It’s really hard to play sporadically.

“So all the credit goes to him and the work he’s put in and staying on time, staying positive and just waiting for his opportunity.”

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