Lake impressing in first go-around in Majors

Lake impressing in first go-around in Majors

Lake impressing in first go-around in Majors

CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had a warning for manager Dale Sveum before Junior Lake debuted on July 19.

"I told Dale when he came up here, 'He's going to do things on the baseball field you haven't seen before -- both good and bad -- until he fully develops and matures,'" Epstein said on Friday. "But it's going to be fun to watch and it's great to see this ball of clay being formed before your eyes."

Lake launched two solo home runs on Thursday to up his line to .323/.344/.565 through 15 games, and he also flashed some glove and hustle in the ninth inning when he made a catch down the left-field line. Lake ran into the brick wall after making the catch and hit his side, but he was in Friday's lineup hitting second and playing left field.

Lake went 4-for-5 with four singles in the Cubs' 6-2 loss to the Dodgers. It was Lake's second four-hit game in 16 contests, making him the first Cub since 1916 to accomplish that feat, and first Major Leaguer to do it since the Cardinals' Bo Hart in 2003.

The 23-year-old is a converted infielder who played only six Minor League games in the outfield -- all this season -- before joining the Cubs. Sveum said he hasn't had any qualms about the youngster's defense while he learns the position on the fly.

"He's done fine. He hasn't even … knock on wood, I don't think he's really made a mistake besides trying to throw a guy out at home and launching it over everybody's head," Sveum said. "But as far as routes and getting to balls and all that, he's done a good job."

The biggest issue in Lake's professional career has been laying off the breaking ball -- which he said he's been seeing more frequently in the Majors. His second home run on Thursday came against a slider, so maybe that's an issue that's left itself in the past.

"Junior's a really hard worker and he can do so many different things on the baseball field," Epstein said. "Everyone's just pulling for him to figure out how to lay off and not chase the breaking ball. It's the most important thing. He's really started doing it.

"[He] worked hard last year at Double-A, took this improvements into winter ball and then gained a lot of confidence with the outstanding performance he had in winter ball. Coming off the [disabled list] this year, he hit the ground running and hasn't missed a beat in the big leagues."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.