Bote's not basking, he's tasking in bid to stick with Chicago Cubs

MESA, Ariz. - David Bote had plenty of reasons to bask in the successes of his rookie season with the Chicago Cubs if he chose to do so.

He did not.

Instead of basking, Bote got to tasking.

"I went into it after the season ended with a bitter taste in my mouth and got down here (to Arizona) the second week of October, and I already started thinking about what we could do to move on, to get back to the World Series and to win that final game," he said this week. "As soon as the off-season happened, I went back to, 'What can I do to help the team win?' "

There was plenty to celebrate for Bote.

After spending six years in the Cubs' minor-league system, Bote finally got the call to the bigs last April and wound up playing in 74 games and compiling a batting line of .239/.319/.408 with 6 home runs and 33 RBI.

Included was a walk-off, pinch-hit grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals on Aug. 12. Talk about a Bote ride around the bases … that was a pleasure cruise.

He hit another walk-off homer Aug. 24 against the Cincinnati Reds.

Bote also displayed versatility in the field, playing 56 games at third base and seeing action at all of the other infield positions and a game in left field.

Getting back to work so quickly after the season ended left little time for reflection.

"I don't think I really did," he said. "As soon as that last out, I didn't watch a single game until the World Series. The postseason hit us all hard. I think we were all not pleased with how it ended. Instead of reflecting back, I was, 'What do I need to do to help this team?' "

After spending so much time in the minor leagues, Bote became pretty good at self-assessment. After batting .458 last July, his average dropped to .187 in August even with his big hits and to .218 in September.

"Obviously they were exploiting high fastball," he said. "What could I do to, one, lay off the ones that are balls and, two, how to get back to hitting it because early on in my career in the minor leagues, that's all I could hit, the high fastball.

"Then they started going sinker, and I would ground out, ground out, ground out. Then I learned to hit the sinker. Now they went back to the fastball. It was like I got caught in between."

So his game plan was clear.

"The off-season was like, 'OK, now can I use different tools, different swings, thoughts on who's pitching and being able to control that a little bit better,'" he said. "The second focus was getting quicker in my agility and lateral movements and being able to play all across the diamond, not just third or not just second, being able to go to the outfield if need be.

"That's where my focus was at. It wasn't, 'What was last year, what did it bring?' Then you miss the next year. If you keep dwelling on the past, it's already sped past you. You're already behind."

Even with Addison Russell beginning this season on the suspended list, the Cubs' infield is a crowded place. Ben Zobrist and newcomer Daniel Descalso can play second base, and Ian Happ is lobbying for playing time there, as well.

"That's the part of our group that's the most difficult on a daily basis regarding, 'How do we put this lineup together and how do we move it back and forth based on righties and lefties? How do we keep a young core group of players mentally engaged and occupied during the course of the season and be fair to everybody and still win?' " manager Joe Maddon said.

"He does have adjustments to make, and he knows that. He's very self aware. Easy conversation. One of our biggest concerns is what is the appropriate David Bowie walk-up music to use this year. I introduced him to a couple. I had him in the office the other day, real loud, "Suffragette City" and a couple things. He kind of liked it."

One thing working in Bote's favor is a self-confidence that stops respectfully short of cockiness.

"There are some times when you've got to trick yourself into being confident," he said. "Those 0-fers pile up and you start thinking. But you've got to come to the field with a clean slate and an open mind of whatever happened yesterday has happened. You can't worry about tomorrow. I've got to worry about this at-bat, this pitch, this game."

The thrill of playing at Wrigley Field and hearing those crowds chant his name are motivation enough to make the team and stick.

"Mmmm, that's a special thing," he said. "It makes it a little easier wanting to go back. I'm going to do everything I can to get back there."

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