Kyle Schwarber could have a bigger role behind plate for Cubs this season
The Cubs plan to begin the season with Kyle Schwarber as the personal catcher for Jason Hammel. Pairing Schwarber with Hammel creates playing time in the outfield for Jorge Soler, helps keep Miguel Montero fresh and continues his development behind the plate.
Kyle Schwarber could get even more time at catcher, at least early in the season, according to a report from the Tribune.
The Cubs are pleased with the progress Schwarber made defensively this spring at both positions. Schwarber made strides at catcher and “can expect to catch more in late innings.” Schwarber’s new setup produced noticeable results.
The Tribune pointed out that with the way Joe Maddon likes to use his entire roster, including changing catchers, Schwarber could be used as a catcher late in games. Schwarber caught Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon during Cactus League games, which was planned according to the Tribune.
Mark Gonzales talked to catching coach Mike Borzello and the Cubs “wanted to make sure he’s seeing the back end of the bullpen.” Borzello thinks Schwarber can catch anyone on the staff and it was important for him to work with “everyone once or twice” before the season.
Schwarber will still see a majority of his playing time this season in left field. If he continues showing improvement behind the plate, the Cubs could expand his role at catcher.
Willson Contreras is viewed as the team’s catcher of the future. Contreras received “rave reviews” during Spring Training according to the Tribune. With David Ross retiring and Miguel Montero under contract through next season, “the Cubs must decide if Schwarber can handle at least half of the team’s catching load.”
Those attending practice in late-February, early-March saw Schwarber working on a new setup behind the plate. Mike Borzello “introduced the stocky Schwarber to a new stance designed to keep him lower but to allow him more comfort” according to the Tribune.
Borzello said to Mark Gonzales, “It works for his body type. We kind of changed his whole lower half and are able to get his eyes closer to his glove, which makes it easier to receive the ball rather than just try to catch it. It’s a better presentation, and he has taken to it very well. In his last couple of games, he has most pitches on the edge on the bottom of the zone. He’s still learning and it’s still a work in progress, but it’s a lot better than where we were last year.”
Schwarber told the Tribune that he thinks the new setup has helped but he is “trying to clean some stuff up.”
(Above video gives a glimpse of changes Schwarber made to his setup)
During practices and when he’s caught Hammel this spring, the new setup has mainly been used early in at-bats and without runners on base.
Schwarber’s pop time improved this spring to around 1.9 and he has been more consistent with his throws. The Cubs have to control the running game on the days David Ross is not catching, an area that was supposed to be focused on and addressed throughout Spring Training.
The Cubs have not fully committed to Schwarber catching Hammel every five days or what the team’s exact plan is for him. Schwarber wants to catch and has a passion for it. From all indications as long as he continues to develop his receiving skills, the Cubs will create more playing time for him behind the plate.