Kyle Schwarber, who missed almost all of last season with a serious knee injury, will enter this season as the Cubs’ third catcher. His primary role will be out in left field, not only because the Cubs already have an excellent catching tandem available in Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero, but also because Schwarber’s bat is so valuable that you’d like not to expose that knee to the risk of further damage behind the plate.
But, still, Schwarber wants to catch. Maybe not all the time, but some. And having a third catcher available on the roster without actually taking up an additional roster spot is an awfully valuable thing, so I like that Schwarber has been given that mantle. Moreover, with Montero set to depart in free agency after this season, you never know what the plans will be behind the plate in 2018. If you can keep options open without seriously risking injury to Schwarber or lost games for the Cubs in 2017, why not?
In any case, I’ve thought for a while if Schwarber was really going to be a third catcher this year, as opposed to strictly an emergency catcher, he was going to have to catch some innings back there during Spring Training. Not just because of the need to get back into things back there – he’s been doing drills with the catchers and catching bullpens all spring – but because it would be a signal that the Cubs really are considering using him as more than an emergency catcher.
Sure enough, after a minor league appearance behind the plate last week, Schwarber got into last night’s game as the catcher for a few innings. And, of course, for fun, he immediately caught a runner trying to steal second:
That was a great jump, too, but a quick, strong, perfect throw nails him.
To be sure, Schwarber still looked a little unrefined back there and allowed a passed ball. But even when Schwarber was going to be the third catcher last year, we already knew he had some work to do on his game behind the plate. He has the talent and drive to get better (the only question is whether he’ll have enough time and opportunity to do so in the long-term, especially given the needs for him to continue to improve defensively in left field, too (a whole lot is being asked of this young man (mostly because he wants it))).
After that, in the 7th inning, when the regulars were departing the game, Schwarber reached base on a single. Naturally, a pinch runner came to get Schwarber out of the game.
Except Schwarber was like, nah, I don’t think so:
“Hi, Chesny. You need to go away now.”
Heh. Do *you* want to be the one to tell Kyle Schwarber to leave a game? In an exhibition game like this, it’s a fine and humorous thing. In the regular season, though, Schwarber might have to be ready to be pulled late from some games if the Cubs opt for a max defense in the outfield.
In Schwarber’s defense, as the broadcast later noted, Joe Maddon had indicated before the game that Schwarber was going to catch more than one inning, so this may have actually been a matter of Young being a little confused about when he was supposed to go out there.
The reaction later in the dugout suggests that possibility:
Let me amend – it wasn't necessarily that Schwarber "refused" to leave, it may be that Chesny Young had his batter mixed up. Javy thoughts? pic.twitter.com/nEEk2VMEF3
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) March 31, 2017
Whatever the case, it’s all in good fun. Mostly for us … and Javy Baez.