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Schwarber ready to work back in minors after 'perfect' situation with Cubs

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Schwarber ready to work back in minors after 'perfect' situation with Cubs

MINNEAPOLIS - Kyle Schwarber dug in the left-handed batter's box at Target Field, staring down Twins southpaw Aaron Thompson with an 0-2 count.

The Twins had just intentionally walked Chris Denorfia to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning of a 2-0 ballgame.

On Thompson's 0-2 delivery, Schwarber stuck his bat out and dinked a soft liner into left-center, padding the Cubs with two insurance runs and proving he would head back to the minor leagues in style.

That situation Sunday was essentially a microcosm of Schwarber's little vacation in the big leagues.

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The Cubs' next big thing will head to Triple-A Iowa to continue to work on his defense behind the plate, but he used the six-game stint to prove he will be back in the majors...at some point.

"I loved the fact that he just competes," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday's 8-0 win over the Twins. "He had a couple tough at-bats, but he competed the entire game. And that's what you notice.

"As it moves down the road when he gets back up here, the fact that he's a competitor, that matters. A lot, actually. So I was really pleased with that."

Schwarber finished the week with a .364 average, .982 OPS and 6 RBI on a homer and a triple, drawing a high compliment from Maddon, who said the rookie handled everything "perfectly."

After striking out in his debut Tuesday, Schwarber announced his arrival by going 4-for-5 in Cleveland Wednesday, helping to lead the charge in the Cubs' 17-0 slaughter over the Indians.

But he finished just 2-for-12 over his last three games, including that two-run single. He struck out six times during the three games in Minnesota, too often expanding the zone and helping Twins pitchers get him out.

"The stuff [from MLB pitchers] is really good," Schwarber said. "That's when your approach has to come in. You can't be chasing pitches. I got myself into the trouble the last couple days by chasing some pitches out of the zone.

"It's time to get back to being patient and swinging at pitches in the zone. That's when I'm going to have success - swinging at strikes, not balls."

On one occassion Saturday, Schwarber expanded the zone again, striking out with only one out and a runner on third when the Cubs could have used a run in the sixth inning of a tie game.

The Cubs were actually glad Schwarber experienced some adversity in the big leagues, since he hasn't endured much in the way of struggles in the minors (.333 average, 31 homers, 92 RBI, 1.042 OPS in 130 games since being selected No. 4 overall in the 2014 Draft.)

"I love the fact that he had some success and maybe struggled just a little bit so he can understand it's not that easy to do all this," Maddon said. "He's gonna know he has to make adjustments. He's gonna know the way this league works, how teams will scout and analyze him until they find that little thing and then you have to guard against it and make an adjustment.

"Primarily, he was just swinging at the ball up and he knows that and [the Twins knew] that. So he's just got to stop doing that. They're balls. And he'll be fine."

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The Cubs want Schwarber to go back down to the minors and work on his defense as a catcher, learning how to frame pitches, call a game and everything else that comes with the most demanding position on the field.

Barring a drastic rule change in Major League Baseball, the Cubs won't have the benefit of the designated hitter for more than a few games a season, so if he's going to be a big part of the future, Schwarber has to be more than just a guy who can hit.

But he knows that.

"[Hitting] was fun, but before games, I was always trying to get better defensively, because obviously I have to play a position," Schwarber said. "I had to take advantage of my time beforehand or in games, whether it's good at-bats and always trying to learn even when you're not hitting, thinking along with the catcher."

Schwarber only caught one inning during his brief trip up with the Cubs, coming in to receive the ninth inning of Tuesday's game.

But he spent the week sitting alongside the Cubs veteran catching duo - Miguel Montero and David Ross - as well as catching instructor Mike Borzello before and during games, trying to soak up anything he could.

The Cubs let Schwarber catch veteran starter Jason Hammel's side session in Minnesota and the 22-year-old also hopped out to warm up Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in between innings while Ross and Montero put their gear on.

"It was nice," Schwarber said of learning from Montero and Ross. "Being able to sit by them, talk to them during a game while one's catching and one's on the bench and sitting next to Borzello, thinking along with the game.

"It's great. Shows how much attention to detail they put into the game-calling. It is kind of an art. It's really cool to see how they do it."

Schwarber stood at his locker Sunday evening, insisting he wasn't disappointed by his assignment back to the minor leagues.

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The Cubs had made it very clear from the start: This was only six games and that's it. Not even a full week of MLB time. No matter what the kid did - good or bad - he wasn't going to stay in the big leagues. Not as a catcher, outfielder or left-handed bat off the bench.

"We talked before [Sunday's] game about what was going to happen next," Maddon said. "Of course, he got it. I think we set it up properly before he came here. There was no gray area. He knew, regardless of how well he did, he was going back.

"And as you can see, there are different things to work on next. He definitely contributed, helped us win a couple games. He did an outstanding job. Him and [Borzello] got a chance to work defensively and we talked about all that stuff.

"It really doesn't happen often that a guy like that, a player like that, gets this opportunity for a finite moment, knows exactly what's going on, the fit is perfect and then goes back down with some specifics to work on. It really couldn't have turned out better."

Schwarber still has to answer the long-term questions about his ultimate position (catcher? left field? somewhere else?), but he's still determined to make it as a backstop.

And despite his advanced approach at the plate and early success, Schwarber knows he still has plenty to learn on the hitting side of things.

"It was a great experience," Schwarber said. "I can't thank these guys enough for being accepting, letting me come up and play with 'em. I'm glad I got to help the team win a couple games.

"It was a great experience and now it's time to go down and start working on all the things I need to work on and hopefully get back up here."

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This six-game stretch wasn't a tryout or an audition for Schwarber. He didn't have to prove anything to anybody. This move back to the minors is really only a demotion in the literal sense.

"[He] got a nice taste," Rizzo said. "It's really nice that he goes down to Triple-A after having success up here and knows he can do it. Now it's [time to] go down, keep developing, keep building.

"He knows he can hit up here, so it's just keep doing your thing. Really, that's all you can say to him."

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans. 

 

 

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 48th homer of the season came off of the St. Louis Cardinals on August 19, 1998, in a 6-8 loss.

With two-outs, Sosa sent a deep shot off of Kent Bottenfield.

The home run was even more special for Sosa, due to it coming against the Cardinals and Mark McGwire, his home run adversary for the year. 

In the game Sosa went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the exact same stat line McGwire finished with.