Rafael Ortega always believed in his skills, and now he's making most of his opportunity with Cubs


(670 The Score) With his continued strong play and big hits to his name, Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega is making the most of his everyday playing opportunity on an overhauled roster and stating his case to find a baseball home in Chicago.

The Cubs are the eighth MLB organization that the 30-year-old Ortega been a part of and the fifth one for which he has reached the big leagues. In other words, he has had a long, winding baseball journey.

“What has helped me get to this point is that I have always been a guy who never gave up,” Ortega said. “I have always held my head high no matter what happened. With many obstacles and a lot of tryouts during my career, things didn't always go well or the way I had hoped for. I never have given up and have been committed to the one goal of playing baseball at a high level.”

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Ortega is batting .306 with seven homers, 21 RBIs and an .849 OPS in 70 games in 2021. He has 198 plate appearances entering play Wednesday. His most plate appearances in any previous MLB season was 202 with the Angels in 2016, so he’ll soon top that.

Cubs manager David Ross has been impressed by what he has seen from Ortega, a Venezuela native who was originally signed by the Rockies in 2008.

“My experience in the game have given me empathy for a lot of different situations,” Ross said. "I started, I was a backup and I stunk a lot. I have certainly seen players come and go. I have seen different skill sets play out. I have seen what superstars bring to the table and what role players add to a team. Guys like Raffy are very important to winning baseball teams. Guys like him who work hard and have good at-bats every day are very important to a winning culture.”

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Ortega’s belief in his abilities to be an everyday player have never waned. Now, he’s getting the chance as the Cubs’ center fielder and lead-of fman.

“It was something that maybe in the beginning of my career I didn't get the opportunities I could have,” Ortega said. “Maybe opportunities then would have allowed me to show what I am showing now. Now, I have that opportunity and I surely give my all each day to try and take advantage of this chance I have.”

Ortega broke an 0-for-15 mini-slump with a walk-off homer to give the Cubs a 6-4 win against the Rockies on Monday evening. He explained that he learned a lot from the rut.

“I don't really believe they have found a way to get me out,” Ortega said through a translator in reference to his recent slump. "I really think it was me getting myself out. I was not following through with the things I was doing at the plate that had made me successful. I wasn't following the pattern I had used to hit the fastball and breaking pitches I was seeing. The coaching staff was there for me helping keep me focused.”

Ross praised Ortega’s work ethic, a trait that he believes can help him stick around. And make no mistake, Ortega plans to stay in the big leagues for a long time now.

“I have no doubt I can stay here and play well at this level,” Ortega said. "I say that with a lot of humility and very humbly. I think I belong here and can play well at this level. It’s all about putting in the work and coming in every day in order to produce as a good major league player.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.