Kyle Schwarber made his big league debut last night, and, although anticlimactic, maybe it was the best way things could have gone. Not only did Schwarber get to ease in for an inning of work behind the plate, but he got a no-pressure at bat at the end of what I’m sure was a whirlwind day. Debuts are a lot of fun, but, as we’ve seen – from Kris Bryant’s strikeouts to Javy Baez’s game-winning homer – they don’t necessarily mean a whole lot for what will follow. Maybe it’s good, then, that Schwarber’s debut felt like a small thing in an otherwise ugly game. Even Schwarber said that it was good to get the first at bat out of the way, even if it was a three-pitch strikeout (Cubs.com). It can only go up from there, he said.
There’s no pressure for the future, no disappointments from the start. The debut was just a brief thing that happened. Now on to the next.
And the next could mean a full slate of at bats for Schwarber, who figures to be the DH tonight when the Cubs/Indians series shifts to Cleveland. It’s possible that Schwarber will DH in all five upcoming AL park games before heading to AAA Iowa to resume his catching development.
On that, team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke with the media, saying that they are more confident than ever that Schwarber will be able to catch in the big leagues “a long time” (Daily Herald, ESPN, CSN).
That said, Epstein held open the possibility that Schwarber could catch enough at AAA Iowa that, by some time in late August or September, he could be in a position to come back up and help the Cubs down the stretch. If he’s not ready behind the plate at that time, and if the bat looks ready to help, I’d guess there’s a chance he could see some in the outfield.
For much more from Epstein and from Schwarber, himself, I’d highly recommend this BP Wrigleyville piece from Sahadev Sharma.
You can watch some of the highlights from Schwarber’s debut here, and it was the 9th inning if you want to go back and watch on MLB.tv. From my perspective, I thought Schwarber looked serviceable behind the plate – though how much can you really tell from one short viewing? I thought he received the ball fairly well, though he sets up kind of late. He appeared a little antsy back there, moving a bit more than I’m used to. But he’s also quick. The hands are a little stabby at times. You certainly notice the difference between someone like Miguel Montero or David Ross and how Schwarber looked. It was a solid debut, though.
All in all, if you told me that this was a guy who basically had no significant, high-level catching instruction until less than a year ago, I’d be impressed. Just as I said in Spring Training: there was nothing I saw that tells me this guy can’t be at least a passable catcher to get his bat into the lineup.
I suspect we’ll see Schwarber keep catching at Iowa until early to mid-August (unless there’s an emergency before then), and then he’ll come up to contribute down the stretch, primarily with his bat. He might draw a start or two behind the plate, but the real finishing touches on his readiness for the big leagues will probably come in early 2016. Thereafter, part-time catcher duties (and part-time outfielder) could be in his big league future.