Cubs’ Ian Happ working to cut down on Ks in Triple-A Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Chicago CubsIan Happ is trying to cut down on his strikeouts without thinking about cutting down on his strikeouts.

Happ was optioned to Triple-A Iowa in late March after a terrible spring training at the plate.

Happ totaled 39 home runs during the past two seasons but struck out 296 times. The 24-year-old utility player has struck out nine times in 27 at-bats so far for the I-Cubs, but has a team-high eight RBIs in six games.

“It’s more of a mental battle than a physical battle,” Happ said Tuesday. “It’s not like you’re not able to put the ball in play. It’s that you put so much pressure on yourself that you know that if you strike out that it’s going to be an issue.”

Happ, the ninth overall pick of the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Cincinnati, Chicago in less than two seasons. After finishing eighth in 2017 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Happ opened the Cubs’ 2018 season with a leadoff homer in Miami.

But his OPS dropped 81 points and his slugging percentage fell by over 100 points from his rookie year. He hit .135 in 17 spring training games this year, earning a trip to Des Moines.

Happ said he felt pressure “when you feel like strikeouts are dependent on, or are a key factor in your playing time.”

He is happy with the mechanics of his swing, especially from the left side. But Happ also knows that the Cubs will need to see him put the ball in play much more often before he gets called up again.

“It’s a little bit different when the strikeout rate is in a place where it is and you have to make those adjustments without thinking about strikeouts,” he said.