Column: Could changes be coming to the Chicago Cubs after a lackluster stretch? Let’s see what Craig Counsell can do.

Jason Heyward’s rain delay speech during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series would’ve been a footnote in Chicago Cubs history had they lost that night to Cleveland.

But as everyone knows, the Cubs rallied to win Game 7, making Heyward’s speech a significant part of the biggest moment in most Cubs fans’ lifetimes.

Héctor Neris’ speech to his Cubs teammates Saturday following the 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates might have given Cody Bellinger goosebumps, as Bellinger revealed after the game. It might have been a rallying point for a team that’s been treading water for over a month as it tries to find its identity.

But unless the Cubs use those words of inspiration as a starting point for a turnaround, they’ll quickly be forgotten, like most things that happen in mid-May of a 162-game season.

The Cubs wound up losing Sunday and dropped three of four to a slumbering Pirates team that came into the series having lost 20 of its previous 28 games, hitting a combined .151 with a .501 OPS.

They’re currently hitting .206 over their last 22 games, somehow managing to go 9-13 over that stretch to stay within shouting distance of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Shota Imanaga, Javier Assad and the starters have saved the Cubs from their May malaise.

“Not our greatest stretch,” Cody Bellinger said Sunday, reminding the media that it’s still early.

“We’re not a perfect team,” manager Craig Counsell said. “There are no perfect teams.”

Those are true statements and what you would expect them to say after a rough weekend.

But this was a Cubs team that was supposed to have enough depth to get past injuries or multiple players’ slumps, and thus far hasn’t been able to do so.

Nico Hoerner’s left hamstring injury was evidence of the flawed makeup of the roster. With Dansby Swanson already on the IL, Counsell used a double-play combination of Miles Mastrobuoni at short and Nick Madrigal at second.

Neither looked ready to be the proverbial “next man up,” and their defensive mistakes were glaring during the Pirates series, even on plays where no errors were charged. Seiya Suzuki and Christopher Morel also made some unforced mistakes in the field, a recurring theme of this Cubs’ season.

The Cubs reportedly plan to call up shortstop Luis Vázquez from Triple-A Iowa, according to ESPN’s Jorge Castillo, who is Vázquez’s cousin. Castillo reported that Vázquez’s mom was the source, and who can doubt the word of someone’s mom?

What that means for Mastrobuoni or Madrigal remains to be seen, but the Cubs desperately need better infield defense, even if Vázquez is used late in games to spell Morel at third.

Swanson is expected to return Tuesday for the three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, and Counsell hinted Sunday that Hoerner should be ready as well.

“It seems that they’re close, and obviously those two guys are tremendous baseball players that help us win,” Bellinger said. “It’ll be great once we get them back, so come back when they’re healthy. It’s the only thing we can ask for.”

Perhaps Counsell acceded to his new bosses when final roster decisions were made in spring training, and finally has seen enough. He’s had long enough to see what the problems are and should have enough clout to have President Jed Hoyer listen to his complaints.

Photos: Pittsburgh Pirates 3, Chicago Cubs 2 at Wrigley Field

The lackluster defense and hitting woes are only a couple of issues the Cubs need to deal with as they reset after the off day. Kyle Hendricks’s status remained unclear Monday when the team listed Thursday’s starter as TBA.

Hendricks, who has abysmal career numbers against the Braves, could just be pushed back to the St. Louis series. Counsell didn’t rule out anything Saturday when asked if the bullpen was a possibility, but conceded they need innings out of their starters.

Hendricks is not just another player. He’s an iconic Cub from the 2016 champions. On Saturday I asked Dexter Fowler if he had spoken to his former teammate about his struggles.

“No, and I just want to give him a hug,” Fowler said. “He didn’t pitch bad. I’m like, he left a few balls up and they made him pay, and then it was like there were no fielders out there, and everything they hit was (in the right spot). Boom, boom, boom.”

In his post-playing career as an analyst for Marquee Sports Network, is it difficult for Fowler to discuss Hendricks’s problems?

“You feel for him at the end of the day, but you just want to help,” Fowler said. “Kyle is going to figure it out and Kyle is going to be just fine. We all go through it. I’ve been through it. When I was playing, we all go through the ruts. It’s all about coming out and having patience through it.”

How much patience Counsell has left for Hendricks is unknown. But he’s not here for a haircut, as John Lackey would say. Counsell was brought here to win. Unlike David Ross, he has no attachment to Hendricks and is unlikely to put sentiments about a player ahead of the need to win games.

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We saw that recently when Counsell benched Ian Happ for two games for a mental reset.

That was the easy part. If Happ continues to struggle, what happens next could be interesting to watch. Could we see some changes in the outfield rotation, where Michael Tauchman has earned more playing time with an .845 OPS over his last 31 games? Tauchman might even be a better defensive option in right field than Suzuki, whose offense is needed but could be better suited in left.

And what Counsell does with Pete Crow-Armstong bears watching. PCA’s stellar defense in center field has helped increase his value to this defensively-challenged team, even as he’s learning to adjust to major-league pitching. Bellinger remains the best option in center, but are the Cubs better off with him at first and Crow-Armstrong in center?

Finally, there’s the question of Neris himself: With 14 walks in 17 innings and a 4.80 FIP, is he the best closing option or just a placeholder until Hoyer acquires a true closer? Can Neris inspire himself with an inspirational speech talking into a mirror?

The days of the Cubs manager sitting back and waiting for everything to get better are over. Or so we were led to believe.

Let’s see what Counsell can do to fix things.