Cubs manager David Ross broached a touchy subject with Kyle Schwarber while the season was on hiatus: The designated hitter.
Analysts have long pegged Schwarber as a natural DH, and he’s openly resented that evaluation of his game. But such talk had always been theoretical. He’s been a National League player his whole career.
Enter the coronavirus pandemic. This season, due to a shortened and regionally-based schedule, MLB is adopting the universal DH. And Schwarber is on the Cubs’ list of players to fill the spot.
“He’s comfortable in the DH spot, he told me that,” Ross said Monday. “I told him it’s not going to be strictly a DH role for him.”
Schwarber isn’t the only one on the list.
“I do think there’s a lot of different ways to do it,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It can be one player, or it can be a spot that allows you to give some guys some rest. … I do think it’s something our roster is well suited for.”
Ross plans to be flexible with his use of the position. He may stick with whoever has the hottest bat, or he may rely on matchups to shape the lineup. Either way, the DH can be leveraged to get outfielders Schwarber and Steven Souza, and catchers Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras more at-bats.
The added DH spot has not, however, changed Ross’s mind about the top of the batting order.
“I really like the top of our lineup and how it played out in spring training with KB (Kris Bryant) at the top and Rizz (Anthony Rizzo) following suit,” Ross said. “I think the DH slots a little deeper at the bottom of our lineup.”