Cubs

Cubs don't want to wring Kyle Schwarber out to dry

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Cubs don't want to wring Kyle Schwarber out to dry

For the Cubs, their biggest addition before MLB's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline may already have happened.

In his first 15 career games, Cubs rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber has been on an absolute tear, showing the front office that they may not need to boost the roster, at least from an offensive standpoint, for the last two months of the season. Heading into Sunday's series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies, the first round pick of the Cubs in the 2014 MLB Draft has a .391/.429/.674 slash line with three homers, 11 RBI and a 1.102 OPS.

The 22-year-old Ohio native has shown a tremendous hit tool in his short time in the majors, but his work behind the plate is what the Cubs want to see him improve.

And Schwarber is more than willing to put in the work.

"He's really gets after anything he wants to do," Maddon said. "He sits with [Mike] Borzello when he's not playing. He's wide-eyed. He asks good questions. He's in there man. He's definitely engaged mentally and that's what he has to be. Physically, he's gotten better too. Physically, they've worked through some issues with his receiving and everything. He's doing a really good job."

[MORE CUBS: Joe Maddon has become a 'professional' at getting no-hit]

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has also seen the progress with Schwarber.

"Pitchers know how hard he works before the game," Hoyer said. "They see the effort and I think that goes a long way with a pretty veteran pitching staff to know how hard he's going to work. The whole game is a work in progress. Certainly the catching is something he'll continue to work on.

"But as we said all along, he sees himself as a catcher and he says he wants to be seen as a catcher first. That mentality is gonna go a long way with the pitching staff."

Currently, Maddon isn't using Schwarber behind the plate when Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are on the mound. Schwarber has gotten the bulk of his catching duties with Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks on the mound. 

But there may be more to that than just not using an inexperienced rookie with veteran pitchers.

"When somebody comes up and they're doing extremely well everybody wants a taste of that on a daily basis," Maddon said. "When he came up we talked to him about specifically how he's going to play here and that's what we've been doing. I've always thought why don't you consider the fact that maybe the way that we're playing him bleeds into the fact that he's playing so well too."

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While Cubs fans may want to see Schwarber's bat in the lineup each night, Maddon is being extremely cautious, especially for the way he handles a player that's never played a full 162-game season.

"Be careful what you ask for sometimes, folks," Maddon said. "He's got two more months plus to play yet. Just keep him healthy, keep him well, keep his mind and his body good and then he can help you when it really matters too.

"You can't take a young guy like that and just wring him out to dry. I'm telling you that it goes away."

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote put his sweet, sweet swing to special use on Tuesday.

Prior to the Cubs’ Cactus League game vs. the Rockies, a couple of Cubs fans asked Bote to partake in their gender reveal. The duo brought a powder-infused baseball, asking Bote to take a hack to reveal whether they’re having a boy or girl.

The father-to-be tossed the ball to Bote, who smashed it open to unleash a pink cloud of powder — signifying the couple will have a girl. The 26-year-old infielder — who has two daughters himself — threw his arms in the air to celebrate.

No matter how you feel about gender reveals, you’ve gotta love the uniqueness of this one and Bote partaking in the special moment. Here’s to a healthy life for the baby! 

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Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes and failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who has struggled immensely at the plate for the last season and a half.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit that he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

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Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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