5/9/2014 8:21 P.M. ET
Olt's new approach producing results at plate
By Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Fresh off a grand slam and his first multi-hit game since April 13 in the Cubs' 12-5 win against the White Sox on Thursday night, Mike Olt is batting .333 (4-for-12) during a three-game hitting streak.
The mini-surge has helped Olt's batting average climb from .162 to .184, something he credited to trusting his new approach at the plate. Olt said that earlier this season, he struggled at times to commit to the approach outlined in scouting reports.
"I was being overaggressive, then I was being under-aggressive," Olt said. "I was kind of in-between, I wasn't committing myself to my approach, so I just kind of stood back and relaxed. And when I go out there and I have that approach, I stick with it, instead of being indecisive."
Olt, whom the Cubs acquired as part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers on July 22, 2013, said he has struggled with swinging at bad pitches and getting himself out.
He struck out 132 times in 432 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues last season, and he has struck out once every 3.04 plate appearances so far this season.
But his relaxed approach has led to three walks in his past 18 plate appearances before Friday's game against the Braves, compared to only three in his first 62 trips to the batter's box in 2014. The process is ongoing for Olt, but he feels his relaxed approach is making an impact.
"You've got to fight yourself," Olt said. "The game's tough, because the game's based around failure. Once you start failing as a competitor, you don't want to do that. So you tend to try a little bit harder. I think I had a little bit of that, a little bit of me trying to prove myself a little too much. Now I'm just kind of relaxed and playing more like myself."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Olt's penchant for striking out does not bother him, because of the power he possesses. Renteria likes how Olt has progressed so far, and he believes that as the young slugger's confidence grows, his numbers will follow.
"He's trying to set aside some areas he can handle better," Renteria said. "It's easier said than done because, there's an anxiousness that comes with doing that, but he's been settling down and he's been playing limited, but he's been playing, and I think he's taken advantage of every opportunity he's had thus far."
Hinske back at Turner Field in familiar mentor role
ATLANTA -- The last time Cubs first-base coach Eric Hinske took in a game at Turner Field, he was a veteran bench presence for the Braves as they hosted the Cardinals in the first-ever National League Wild Card game on Oct. 5, 2012.
Less than a year later, his playing career came to an end after 12 seasons in the Majors when the D-backs designated Hinske for assignment last June.
"It's tough when you get to the end," Hinske said. "You're humbled. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'Do I want to keep trying to do this?' or know that you can't. Your bat's slowing down a little bit, so that's kind of how I felt."
Hinske batted .249 with 137 career homers, but he made his mark in the Majors as an integral member of winning ball clubs. He won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2007, got there with the Rays in '08 and won it again with the Yankees in '09.
He also reached the postseason as a member of the Braves in 2010 and '12. In Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series against the Giants, Hinske hit a two-run homer to put the Braves ahead in the eighth inning of a 3-2 loss.
"He's been on winners and contenders for most of his career, and he's been a big part of all of that," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He can share his experiences and his conversations to hopefully help them move forward in their own development."
Back in Atlanta, Hinske is happy to reconnect with former Braves teammates, including Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. When reflecting on his time in Atlanta, Hinske simply described it as "three of the best years of my career."
"That's kind of how I figured out that I wanted to coach, because I had success with that," Hinske said of his role as a mentor for those young Braves teams. "I helped a lot of players along the way from organization to organization."
After working as a Yankees scout late last year and reconnecting with former teammate Brian McCann, Hinske got a call from Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who traded for Hinske as the Red Sox general manager in 2006.
Although coaching entails more work for Hinske, who is honing his ability to throw batting practice, he likes being on the field as a coach and staying in the game.
"I was very proud of that fact that I kind of felt like I did things the right way as a player, so that helped me when I was done," Hinske said. "I'm very proud of that."
After long Thursday, Castillo gets rest
ATLANTA -- The Cubs needed four hours and seven minutes to defeat the White Sox on Thursday before traveling to Atlanta for a three-game series against the Braves. As a result, catcher Welington Castillo received Friday off.
John Baker started in place of Castillo, who entered Friday having started eight of the past nine games behind the plate. Friday night marks the sixth time Baker has caught Jason Hammel in seven starts this season.
"It was a long game," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "We're in a situation where [Baker] has been handling Hammel, and it worked out where he can do the same thing again today."
Baker's offense is a downgrade from Castillo, who is hitting .250 (25-for-100), and whose four homers and 15 RBIs are nearly halfway to his 2013 totals of eight and 32.
Entering Friday, Baker was batting .080 (2-for-25) with two walks and 11 strikeouts in 2014.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.