Cubs

Stewart looking for rebound

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Stewart looking for rebound

The Rockies made Ian Stewart the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft. They believed in the power shown by the kid fresh out of high school.

Eight years later, the Rockies had had enough and sent Stewart on a one-way ticket to Chicago, taking the Cubs disappointing first-round pick Tyler Colvin in return.

It made sense for Colorado. After hitting 43 homers from 2009-10, Stewart struggled mightily in 2011, hitting just .156 with zero home runs.

Stewart is still just 26 (he will be 27 shortly after Opening Day) and the Cubs are counting on a rebound. Stewart isnt only counting on it, hes expecting it.

"I'm coming in here kinda feeling like I have a fresh start with a new organization, a great organization that I'm excited about, he said. I'm just looking forward to going out and trying to be the player that I was a few years back in Colorado.

"I want to show the team that they made a good choice in trading for me. They gave up a good player to get me in Colvin. It's nice to be wanted by such a great organization."

As for why he struggled in 2011, Stewart doesnt have a definitive answer.

"It's really hard for me to pinpoint anything from last year, he said. It was just such a rough year for me. I lost confidence. It was hard mentally for me. It was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in baseball.

I've already gotten with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo here a few times this offseason and I really feel like I'm in a good place with him and I'm really looking forward to get going."

A big reason for the struggles last season was Stewart did not get a chance to get going. He got just 136 at-bats, appearing in only 48 games as he was shuttled to and from Triple-A multiple times.

That could change in Chicago.

"I talked to Theo and Jed after the trade, Stewart said. They were both excited to have me here. From my understanding, I'm going to get every opportunity here to play everyday and to get those 400, 500, 600 at-bats that I feel that I need to be the player that I can be.

The couple years that I did well in Colorado, I was getting 400 or 500 at-bats. Theo and Jed have been vocal about me getting that opportunity to do that. Obviously, it's on my shoulders, in my hands whether I end up getting those at-bats. If I play well, I'll get them. Just to hear from them how they feel about me is nice to know.

If Stewart is able to get going with the bat, he will be a big addition the Cubs lineup. But he also brings a solid glove and valuable experience and knowledge in rebuilding efforts.

"I'm excited to come in and be a part of a team that looks like it's headed in the right direction, starting from Theo all the way down, he said. We went through a similar situation in Colorado when I was there. We went in the right direction and ended up getting to the playoffs a few times. I'm just looking forward to doing the same thing here.

"The great years that we had in Colorado, I think we were leading the league in defense. That's really where it starts. If you can field, throw, help out the pitching staff and keep the runs down, then you don't need to score a ton of runs. The pressure is off the offense at that point. If we can field our positions and the pitchers can do their job, then I think we'll do fine over here."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.