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Lake looks to springboard off three-homer game

Lake looks to springboard off three-homer game

MESA, Ariz. -- Junior Lake said he never had a three-homer game in the Minor Leagues, but he delivered one on Sunday for the Cubs in a Cactus League game against the Athletics.

"I needed that," the outfielder said Monday. "That's why I'm working. I work every day to be prepared for the [big leagues]."

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Lake has been getting extra at-bats in the Cubs' Minor League games the last few days, which has helped.

"I can see more pitches," he said. "For me, it's the same pitches in the [Minors as in the] big leagues. The big leaguers are more consistent. I go to the Minor Leagues, and I can see more pitches."

Lake grounded out in the first, tried to bunt in his second at-bat in the fourth inning, and hit his first home run of the spring in the sixth, a three-run shot. He added a two-run homer in the seventh and a solo shot to straightaway center in the ninth.

Which one felt the best?

"The last one," Lake said, smiling.

Lake had swung at the first pitch in his first at-bat, then tried to bunt on an 0-1 pitch. Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller is encouraging players to go deeper into counts, which Lake did on the home run swings.

"He went back to the drawing board [after the bunt]," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "The more he sees pitches, the more it seems like he gets into the rhythm of the at-bat."

Renteria had looked at video of Lake over the winter. The young outfielder, who made his big league debut last season, and batted .284 in 64 games, is listening to Mueller and making progress at the plate.

"I'm not worried about the results. I'm really concerned about their approaches," Renteria said. "I thought [Sunday], he took a big step forward. You've got to do it on a daily basis. Yesterday wasn't a bad step."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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