Theriot laughs off headline's insinuation
Shortstop's recent power surge fodder for column hook
CHICAGO -- Ryan Theriot owes his power surge to a change in his approach at the plate, the shortstop said, not performance-enhancing drugs, which was implied by a headline in a Chicago newspaper Friday.
Theriot said he laughed when he saw the headline: "Small hitter, big problem: When even Theriot raises suspicions, baseball's earned cynicism."
"It's just comical," Theriot said.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella was upset by what the headline and column implied.
"Isn't that crazy?" Piniella said. "When the wind is blowing out at Wrigley and you can show some bat speed and get the ball up in the pull field, you're going to get rewarded.
"The biggest problem with the steroid thing is not the fact that people took steroids, it's that the people who haven't get tainted along with everybody else," Piniella said. "This is why truthfully, when they named Alex [Rodriguez] it's unfair. They should've named all 103 [players who tested positive]. Look, if I were clean, I'd want to let people know I was clean so if I hit a few home runs, people don't look at me and say, 'Is this guy Popeye or what?'"
Theriot, whose previous high for homers in a season was three and who hit only one last season in 149 games, has belted five in the Cubs' first 33 games, including his first career grand slam.
"I guess everybody is entitled to their own opinion," Theriot said. "It's unfortunate that it's come to this. I guess you can write whatever you want to write and it's up to the readers to formulate their own opinion."
Theriot said he even stopped drinking protein shakes in 2005. Now he relies on an occasional ice cream drumstick.
"Coming up through high school and the time I was in college, supplements were a huge part of our workout regime," Theriot said. "Companies would sponsor your school, and you would get free supplements. For me, the risk-reward was never worth it, to even take a chance on a protein shake. My supplements the last four, five years have been Gatorade and water."
Piniella talked to Theriot in late April when the team was in St. Louis about trying to pull the ball more.
"The last time I checked, I was a professional athlete and an everyday player who has put up some decent numbers," Theriot said. "I guess anybody can do anything if you set your mind to it. I've always been under that belief. I feel I could go out there and pitch if I wanted to. A few homers here and there -- you have to remember it's only a few. It's not like I've got 30."
All of Theriot's 12 career home runs have come at Wrigley Field.
"I asked him in St. Louis earlier in the year to not think of right field exclusively -- drive the ball," Piniella said. "You're capable of driving the ball to left-center, right-center. I think it's absurd to think anything else.
"Truthfully, not anybody, but mostly anybody in the big leagues is capable of hitting 10 or 12 home runs," Piniella said.
Theriot lead the National League in singles last season. He's not about to be confused with Albert Pujols, but it's been nice to have his name side by side with the big sluggers.
"Albert's the best player in the game, and Adam Dunn hits a bunch of bombs," Theriot said. "It's good to be associated with those fellows. It's very gratifying for me to be up there in another category other than average and hits and singles, which is not really a category."
The article's target is baseball and the steroid issue, and it uses Theriot as an example, because the 5-foot-11 shortstop is not your typical home run hitter.
"Once you get into the article and read the article -- and I have read it a few times -- you realize the point is a valid point," Theriot said. "It's more what the game has come to. The headline could've been written a little differently. When you read something like that, it associates you with something you don't want to be associated with.
"Me, personally, I have pride in myself throughout my life on my reputation both on and off the field, and it's something that means a lot to me," Theriot said. "I feel like I've lived my life right from Day 1. Hopefully, that will overcome a headline like that. It's tough when others make mistakes and you get dragged into it."
Piniella said the biggest problem with performance-enhancing drugs is that players who are clean are unfairly linked to using illegal substances.
"It's unfair to any player, it really is," Piniella said. "If somebody has a particularly good week hitting the ball out of the ballpark or whatever, it's, 'Wait a minute.' In today's game, you can see it, they're watching more carefully than any other time. People would be absolutely foolish to do something like that."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.