Fresh Start Doing Wonders for Negron

Sometimes when things aren't going well, all an athlete needs is a change of scenery -- a place where he feels welcomed, needed. West Tenn outfielder and Southern League All-Star Miguel Negron got exactly that and more when he was placed on waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays in May and then scooped up by the Cubs.

There was a time when Negron, now 23, felt depleted, unwanted. He had struggled through six-plus seasons with the Blue Jay farm system and was batting just .215 in 33 games for Double-A New Hampshire of the Eastern League prior to his move to the Cubs. Things clearly were not working out.

A change of scenery was needed and Negron was granted one just past the midway point in May when the Blue Jays made a roster move that required someone to be bumped from their 40-man roster.

That someone was Negron, who knew long before his departure from the Blue Jays that the organization wasn't holding out much hope for his future.

"They don't say they've given up on you. That's not the way to do it," Negron says moments before an autograph session with his newfound friends and fellow Southern League All-Stars in Montgomery, Ala. "But I am a human being and I know. I know when people change their minds about persons. I don't like to talk bad about people, but they never gave me the chance.

"They have their own players and they prefer their own guys."

It's not that Negron holds any resentment toward his former club. He understands that baseball is a business, and that sometimes businesses and business relationships, like his tenure with the Jays, do falter.

"Sure it's a business," Negron re-iterates. "Sometimes, when you aren't comfortable in one place, your performance isn't the same. With the Cubs, I feel like I'm starting my career all over again. I'm having fun playing baseball again and I like the Cubs organization. That's a big difference for me."

The left-handed hitting, former first-round pick from the 2000 draft is batting .346 with 14 doubles through 41 games with his new club. Ironically, he left Toronto's farm system riding an eight-game hitting streak.

While Negron, Jaxx manager Pat Listach, and Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken, who drafted Negron six years ago as head of the Blue Jays' scouting department, have all acknowledged that a fresh start was sorely needed, Negron knows that leaving an organization you've been with your entire career and just starting over isn't that simple.

"When you come to a new organization after six years, it's not always easy," Negron said. "You say in your mind that you can make the adjustments. You say to yourself that you know you can hit, that you just have to find a way. I came to the Cubs and we have a good hitting coach here. He's given me some tips and I've made some adjustments I weren't making before."

What tips? What adjustments?

"He had a real narrow stance and a tendency to over-stride," Jaxx hitting coach Tom Beyers recollected of Negron's arrival in Jackson. "We put him in more of an athletic stance, kind of widened his feet a little. Upstairs, he's still working on some things with his hands. That's still something he has to iron out. The main thing has been with his feet.

"The other thing is that each player needs to find a certain routine before the game that's good for him. He's found a couple of drills that he believes in. He's been able to take some things into the game. Getting in a routine before the game is something I think all the players want to find to help with their swing. His thing is, he uses a short bat, so that helps him take his hands back in a proper way."

Negron said, "The results have been good."

That's an understatement. Prior to a 0-for-5 night at the plate in Wednesday's extra-inning Jaxx loss at Mobile, Negron was batting an even .400 over his last seven games and was near that same mark throughout most of his first few weeks with the Jaxx.

In that same span, he maintained an OPS of nearly 1.000. His recent hitless performance dropped his on-base percentage just a spec below .400 for the first time in months.

"When he first got here, he was very receptive," said Beyers, who has been with the Cubs as a minor league coach or manager since 2000. "When you get a guy that walks in and says he needs help, and is willing to listen and try new things, that's three-quarters of the battle sometimes. We have to give a lot of credit to Miguel for admitting that to himself.

"I think he just looked as it as, ‘I got a fresh start. I got a chance to try some new things here.' "

With one season in Double-A already under his belt in 2005, it's only natural to wonder if Negron is ready to make the step up to Triple-A or possibly even Chicago some time this year. He was placed on the 40-man roster upon arriving to the Cubs.

"Double-A, Triple-A, the big leagues, it's all the same to me," he said. "The only thing different is that guys in the big leagues are more consistent. I'm not the kind of player who likes to think about whether I belong here or there. I'm here now and just want to do my job here. When they think you're ready for the next level, they'll give you the opportunity."

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