05/30/2002 5:52 pm ET
Bellhorn belts grand slam in win
Cubs bench player seeing action in every infield spot
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Mark Bellhorn has gotten used to not playing a lot. That hasn't really been his choice.
But how he deals with it is up to him, and he's had a decided change in his approach to his role in 2002.
"I think it's tough," Bellhorn said about being a part-timer. "Last year helped, being with Oakland. I was up for four-and-a-half months, and I hardly saw any playing time."
In those four months with the A's, Bellhorn appeared in just 38 games and picked up only 74 at-bats. It was a bitter pill the 27-year-old infielder found difficult to swallow.
"I got down on myself and had real negative attitude," Bellhorn said. "This year, I wanted to have a positive attitude."
And that's led to much better results when he does get in the lineup. Filling in for starter Fred McGriff at first base Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, Bellhorn hit his first career grand slam to help the Cubs slug their way to a 9-8 win.
With the score tied at two, the Cubs loaded the bases in their half of the third inning. Bellhorn stepped to the plate with one out and sent Jimmy Anderson's offering, a fastball down and in, into the seats to give Chicago a 6-2 lead.
"I hadn't played in five or six days," said Bellhorn, who has been hampered by a sore wrist. "I was happy to contribute and help the team win.
"With the bases loaded and one out, I was just trying to put the ball in play, to hit a fly ball and get the run in from third."
The big fly gave Bellhorn five home runs and 16 RBIs in just 91 at-bats. Despite a .231 batting average, Bellhorn has slugged .451 and has a .364 on-base percentage. Project his number to a 500 at-bat season, and he's a 27-homer, 88-RBI guy.
"I want to play every day," Bellhorn said. "But when I'm called on, I want to do what I can. You have to work your way in. You can look at it in different ways. Maybe one day, I'll become an everyday guy."
There's that positive attitude again. While waiting for that opportunity, Bellhorn has become a jack of all trades. He's appeared at every position in the infield numerous times, and has made just two errors (both at third base) in 89 total chances around the diamond. He had never played first base, where he started Thursday, in the big leagues before this season.
"It's starting to feel better," Bellhorn said, "compared to Spring Training [when it felt strange.]"
Don Baylor might start to feel a little bit better about penciling Bellhorn's name into the lineup. Considering how difficult it's been for the Cubs to score runs this year, Baylor will take a look at the lineup that lit up the scoreboard, at least in the early going Thursday.
"For the lineup [tomorrow], I have no idea," Baylor said. "We scored nine runs. I'm sure some of the same guys we'll be back in there."
Bellhorn will be more than happy to oblige Baylor's request for more playing time. But if he's not starting Friday, it won't change his outlook. At least he knows he helped give the sagging Cubs lineup a lift for one day, picking up a pitching staff that has carried the Cubs thus far.
"Hopefully, this will give a little spark for the offense," Bellhorn said. "Especially the first couple of weeks, we were scoring one, two runs a game. The pitchers felt if they gave up three runs, [they'd lose]. This was a good feeling. Hopefully, we'll do it a lot more."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.