SAN FRANCISCO — You’re not a prototypical ...
“What are you saying I’m fat?” Kyle Schwarber said, joking around with the reporters at his locker before Wednesday’s big game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes to question assumptions and go against convention. So why change now when FanGraphs gives his team a 97.4-percent chance of making the playoffs?
The Cubs put Schwarber in the leadoff position, hoping for a spark from the left-handed power hitter who’s barreled his way into the National League’s Rookie of the Year race.
“I got a green light,” Schwarber said.
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The X-rays came back negative on Dexter Fowler’s bruised hand and shin, but Maddon still wanted to give his leadoff guy the night off against the defending World Series champs.
Fowler has been an offensive catalyst during this second-half surge, getting on base almost 44 percent of the time since the All-Star break, drawing 31 walks in his last 35 games.
“There’s no different approach to the game,” Schwarber said. “You’re the first hitter, and then once the game starts, you’re not the first hitter anymore. Just approach it like any other at-bat and go from there.”
At times, Schwarber said, he hit leadoff for Indiana University, where he developed into last year’s No. 4 overall pick. Maddon also pointed out that he used catcher/designated hitter John Jaso as an occasional leadoff guy with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’m not opposed to trying things like that,” Maddon said. “I like the fact that he comes around more often. The fact that Addison (Russell is) swinging the bat a lot better at the bottom (of the order) helps, also. But I don’t see it as being a stretch.”
Schwarber clearly feels at home in a clubhouse that blends steady rookies, grizzled veterans and a manager who thinks outside the box. The Cubs will keep finding spots for Schwarber, who has put up 12 homers, 35 RBIs and a .944 OPS through his first 42 games in The Show.
“Same plan, same approach,” Schwarber said with his game face on before delivering another one-liner. “And I don’t appreciate you calling me fat.”