Theriot enjoying breakout season
Shortstop ranks among leading hitters in Senior Circuit
LOS ANGELES -- Have you checked out the National League batting leaders lately? Atlanta's Chipper Jones is hitting .400-plus, and then there's Houston's Lance Berkman, St. Louis' Albert Pujols, San Francisco's Benjie Molina, and Chicago's Ryan Theriot.
"I don't look at it," said Theriot, who is batting .323 for the season. "I'm not going to lie, I know I'm up there. It's still early and a lot can happen in a few days. I don't think you buy into it too much until you have a ton of at-bats."
Theriot was comfortable talking about his recent success. He's had plenty of people trying to mess with him lately since the road trip began. He's not worried about being jinxed.
The Cubs shortstop seems very much at ease on the West Coast. He is batting .360 (9-for-25) on this road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles, and was tied for second in the NL with 25 multi-hit games.
"It's always cool to be included with those guys," said Theriot, in his second full big league season. "I saw a stat a couple weeks ago where I was tied with Chipper and Berkman in multi-hit games. I was like, 'Those are pretty good hitters.'"
So is Theriot right now.
"I think it's just staying consistent and doing what I know I can do, and not trying to do too much, and staying consistent with my approach," he said. "It helps when you have [Alfonso Soriano] in front of you and [Derrek Lee] behind you, and you just take advantage of that.
"A lot has changed from last year, confidence-wise," he said. "You learn how to play 162 games, and you start to understand what it takes. It's more of a mental grind than anything, and you just try to stay consistent."
On Saturday, Theriot was 0-for-4, a rare hitless day. He also had some adventures in the field, dropping two throws from catcher Geovany Soto.
"We have to figure out why Theriot is dropping tags at second base," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after the game, a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers. "That we can't do."
Theriot and bench coach Alan Trammell were watching video after the game to go over different techniques the shortstop could use. A lot of what the shortstop does depends on the situation and the baserunner.
Soto's throw in the sixth to try and get Matt Kemp took a tough hop.
"It looks bad," Trammell said of the play. "But there's nothing you can do about that."
In the seventh, the throw was more up the line than Trammell originally thought.
"Do you go in front of the base and catch it and come back, or do you go behind the base?" Theriot said. "I don't really know which way is right, and which way is wrong. I guess the throw would determine it, but Alan made a good point that when you straddle the base, which is what I do, you're almost boxed in and can't move around too much.
"If you're in front of the base, you have the liberty to move around," Theriot said. "My thing always was when I go in front of the base, when I'm stealing bases, if I see a guy in front, I go to the back side."
He'll test some techniques between innings in games when Soto throws to him after the pitcher warms up.
"I think we can help him," Trammell said.
It's all part of Theriot's development as a player. A few years ago in the offseason, he was hitting with David Dellucci, who told Theriot his swing looked like Texas' Michael Young. That's a good guy to be compared to.
"I went home and Googled it, and watched his swing," Theriot said, "and said, 'Man, he's got a good swing.' I looked at his numbers, and it was like, 'Wow, he's got monster numbers.' I've tried to pattern myself after what he does."
Theriot has never talked hitting or anything else with Young, who is a former teammate of Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa. Maybe someday. Right now, Theriot is thinking about this season. He began the year with a career .276 big league average, and hit .266 last year.
"I always felt like I could hit, even when they did the switch-hitting thing with me [at the start of his pro career]," he said. "You're just learning, always learning, trying new stuff. You hope to get better and better."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.