Cubs

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.

[MORE - Jake Arrieta on point as Cubs cruise past Twins]

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."

[MORE: 'Iron Horse' Coghlan has become unheralded contributor for Cubs]

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."

[RELATED - Kyle Schwarber making an instant impact for Cubs]

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."

'Cubs by the letter'

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USA TODAY

'Cubs by the letter'

Chris Kamka goes through his Cubs version of the alphabet in a poem inspired by Ogden Nash's "A Lineup for Yesterday" from 1949.

A: Arrieta

Respected and feared

He tossed two no-hitters

And grew a large beard

 

B is for Billy

A sweet-swingin' lefty

Was rather soft spoken

His hittin' was hefty

 

C is for Catcher

Mike Barrett’s right fist

Contreras, Girardi

And others I missed

 

D is for Dawson

His contract was blank

He won MVP

Then went to the bank

 

E is for Ernie

He bled Cubbie Blue

a beautiful day

So why not play two

 

F is for Fergie

He could do it all

Played hockey, played hoops

Pitched into the Hall

 

G was for Goat

But not anymore

That nonsense of "curses"

We choose to ignore

 

H is for Harry

His trademark black frames

He’d yell “Holy Cow”

And mispronounce names

 

I is for Ivy

Along Wrigley's Walls

Responsible for

Many vanishing balls

 

J is for Javy

He goes by El Mago

The flashiest glove

In all of Chicago

 

K is for Strikeout

And also for Kerry

His 20-K game

Was quite legendary

 

L is for Lester

He just needs one run

He'll make 30 starts

And then start Game 1

 

M is for Maddon

Had plenty of luck

Used hundreds of lineups

And tried not to suck

 

N is November

Of 2016

One hundred eight years

They wiped the slate clean

 

O is for Orie

And countless others

Who'd be superstars

If we had our druthers

 

P is for Pappas

Was one pitch away

The ump called ball four

Which ruined Milt's day

 

Q for Quintana

Colombian pride

Has hurled for both

The South and North side

 

R is for Ryno

Out at second base

He turned double plays

With Dunston & Grace

 

S is for Sammy

Into the abyss

Goes dozens of baseballs

Heart tap and a kiss

 

T is for Tony

You know who it is

Regarding first base

No one beats The Rizz

 

U for Uehara

With Cubs for one year

Not many to choose from

To fill the spot here

 

V is for Vegas

A wonderful place

Hometown of the player

Who covers third base

 

W for Wrigley

And Waveland too

Also the white flag

With a W in blue

 

X is for X

Roman Numeral Ten

Was worn by Ron Santo

Won’t be worn again

 

Y is for Yu

He had a tough year

In 2019

Yu'll be glad he's here

 

Z is for Zobrist

A solid teammate

You'll hear his wife sing

As he walks to the plate

 

Well, it sure looks like the Bryce Harper-to-the-Cubs ship has sailed once and for all

Well, it sure looks like the Bryce Harper-to-the-Cubs ship has sailed once and for all

It sure seems like we can pronounce the Cubs' courtship of Bryce Harper DOA. 

Though there was never much doubt left after manager Joe Maddon bluntly said it wasn't going to happen, news of the Cubs' disinterest in Harper continues to trickle in: 

Take every single tweet ever with a grain of salt -- because that's all any of them are worth -- but this seems mighty cut and dry. Granted, this is the same Jim Bowden that spent a not insignificant amount of time trying to convince White Sox fans that their team was the FRONTRUNNER for Bryce Harper, but Bowden is admittedly more well-connected than other baseball tweeters. 

Maybe it's just posturing, and if the reports of Manny Machado's $175 million contract are to be believed, it's almost definitely posturing. The more important thing to take away from this, however, is that Hot Stove season is insufferable and would everyone please just sign players so we don't have to Sherlock Homes 16 tweets a day.