Restovich Getting it Done

Outfielder Michael Restovich talks about the fine season he is having at Triple-A Iowa.

At 27, the word "prospect" may no longer fit Michael Restovich's proverbial bill. The outfielder and former second-round pick by the Minnesota Twins of the 1997 draft is back in Triple-A after splitting time in the major leagues a season ago with both Pittsburgh and Colorado.

Prospect or no prospect, though, Restovich has been hard to ignore this season. His 21 home runs are tied with West Tenn's Jake Fox and Iowa teammate Micah Hoffpauir for the most in the Cubs' farm system.

The Minnesota native put together a lazy Spring Training with the bat, hitting only .222 in 26 games. But he began the regular season on a fiery pace, batting .353 (18-for-51) in the first month.

By the end of June, Restovich had 10 homers, though most were of the solo variety. That was hardly Restovich's fault, as Iowa manager Mike Quade and hitting coach Von Joshua duly noted at the time.

"We had a little talk about that the other day," Joshua, the former Chicago White Sox hitting coach, said at the time. "I know it's bothering him, but you can't always drive ‘em in when they're not on base."

Now, after hitting eight homers and driving in 21 runs in July alone, Restovich has shot up near the top of the organizational leader board in many offensive categories like homers and RBIs.

Those who have followed Restovich's career should not be surprised. The minors have always been where the outfielder has showcased a knack for the longball. Part of it may be due to minor league pitching, but an even bigger part could be attributed to everyday playing time.

"In the minor leagues, I always have been considered a home run hitter," Restovich says. "Most years, I've been able to hit for power and it's what I'm expected to do at this level."

When Restovich hit two home runs against the Tacoma Rainiers earlier this week at Principal Park in Des Moines, he became the first Iowa player to 20 homers with the team this year. (Hoffpauir has 11 with the team.) Restovich's career-high for homers was 29 back in his first Triple-A season with the Twins in 2002.

Restovich doesn't spend his off-season's bulking up in hopes of hitting home runs, though. In fact, the Triple-A slugger says he has actually lost weight, noticeably down a few pounds from his listed 250 pounds as reported by the Cubs' official media guide.

He believes his home runs come not from added power or changes to his strength and conditioning routines, rather more playing time.

"I thought I was a little too big after last year," Restovich admitted. "I don't think it's necessarily anything I've done strength-wise. It's just getting an opportunity. Last year, I had only 120 at-bats. This year, being in one place for a period of time I think has helped me hit a few more home runs."

Restovich began the 2005 regular season with the Rockies before being traded to the Pirates after a month and a half. With Colorado, he had nine hits in 31 at-bats. After joining the Pirates, he recorded only 18 hits over the remaining five months, primarily from the Buccos' bench.

Signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs this past off-season, Restovich had hoped to play a hand in the makeup of Dusty Baker's Chicago team, but understood his chances took a big hit after his struggles in March.

With seven-plus minor league seasons and one at the major league level under his belt, what does a guy like Restovich still have to do at the park every day that he hasn't done a million times before?

"You have to find the reasons why you're not in the big leagues now," he readily says. "The biggest thing for me is to be as consistent as possible. You have to be with regards to your approach at the plate. Just find a way not to strike out as much by swinging at bad pitches, and putting yourself in a situation where you're comfortable and can see the pitches better."

With 99 strikeouts in 95 games this season, Restovich has averaged one K per every 3.5 at-bats. The only Iowa player with more strikeouts is none other than top organizational outfield prospect Felix Pie with 105.

But in Restovich's case, you take the good with the bad. As is the case with most power hitters, you take the strikeouts with the home runs.

When asked if strikeouts were his biggest flaw, Restovich replied, "It goes both ways. I think a lot of people have said that and I think it can be at times. Other times, it can be overrated, especially when you're not being aggressive and missing the pitches that you should be hitting."

According to Restovich, there's a fine line between the two.

"For me, it's not just the strikeout but the manner in which I struck out," he said. "Usually when it happens to me, it's when I'm not feeling as good at the plate and am a little off-balance, and thus swinging at bad pitches."

With less than a month left in the season, Restovich remains the top power threat in the I-Cubs' lineup. He has spent most all year batting in the cleanup spot and has amassed an OPS (slugging + OBP) of over .900.

The Cubs are currently 62-57 overall, just a half game back of first-place Nashville in the PCL's American Northern Division with less than a month remaining in the season. The team continues a four-game series at Memphis Saturday against a struggling Redbirds team that has gone 46-73. With their 5-4 win on Friday night, Iowa improved to 10-2 against Memphis this year.

Whatever the future holds in store for Restovich, he would like it to be the Cubs, one way or another.

"They haven't talked to me too much about my role," Restovich said. "They had talked to me about playing first base some, because they didn't know how long Derrek Lee would be down. I put in some work there just to make my game better. You read and hear things, but not until they come to me and tell me anything will I read too much into it."

And after last year, Restovich realizes that not making a big league roster isn't necessarily the end of the world.

"You want to be up there," he said. "You want to play there, but it's also frustrating when you're there and not playing. Obviously, you want to be back there, but it's a nice change of scenery to get some consistent at-bats."

Northsiders Report Top Stories