Kyle Schwarber has a knack for getting out of minor league bus rides. Last year in Boise just before a long road trip through the mountains, he was extracted from his seat and flew to Chicago, joining Kane County. On Tuesday, he missed Tennessee’s trek from Jacksonville, Florida, back to Kodak and was on another flight to Chicago, this time to join the Cubs.
The fourth overall selection in last year’s draft made his pro debut in the 9th inning last night behind the plate at Wrigley Field after Miguel Montero was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the 8th. Schwarber struckout on three pitches in his first MLB at-bat in the bottom of the frame of the Cubs 6-0 loss to Cleveland.
“It was fun, Schwarber said of his first day in the big leagues.”Good experience to get that first inning behind the plate in. My at-bat wasn’t the best but it can only go up from there, I guess.”
But that’s what the Cubs wanted, get the “firsts” out of the way.
“I talked to him about the ability to get some firsts out of the way, which the next time he comes up it will permit him to be somewhat more comfortable and know what to expect,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “Because the next time he comes up, its gonna be under different circumstances where things may be even hotter.”
Schwarber is essentially being promoted to AAA but one of the Cubs star pupils gets to take a six-day ‘school trip’ with the big league club between destinations. The Cubs plan to use the 22-year-old as the designated hitter for the next five days, two games in Cleveland and three more in Minnesota. Then after Sunday’s game, no matter how well he performs, its back to Des Moines for his AAA debut.
“Get his feet wet for the next couple days, give him a taste of what its like,” Maddon said of the Cubs prospect. “I asked him to be himself, take mental snapshots, to really enjoy the moment and if he’s a little freaked out, that’s normal.”
Its been quite the journey for the University of Indiana product, who’s gone from the college campus, to Boise, to Kane County, to Daytona, to fall instructs, to a spring training invite, to Tennessee, and now to the big leagues in just over a year.
And when he’s not packing his bags, he’s hitting baseballs. In 130 minor league games, the left-handed slugger is batting 333/.432/.610 with 31 homers, 92 RBI, 92 walks, 94 runs and even six stolen bases. While splitting time between left field and catcher last year, Schwarber has strictly been behind the plate in Tennessee, catching 320 innings in 36 games. He’s served as the designated hitter 21 times so his duties in the American League parks will be nothing new, except the third deck part.
Maddon said the Cubs aren’t worried about what being sent back down to Iowa will do to him mentally because he was properly prepped before he came up; saying he know’s the circumstances and the length of his stay will not be based on performance.
Cubs President Theo Epstein weighed in on Schwarber-Mania.
“Right now, his priority is continuing to develop as a catcher. It’s going really well. We’re more convinced now than ever that he’s going to catch, and catch a long time in the big leagues.”
Epstein added the Cubs would be monitoring his workload and it may get to a point late this summer where he’s reached his limit behind the plate and could move elsewhere, presumably left field.
When Schwarber does arrive in Des Moines, he’ll split catching duties with Rafael Lopez, who made his Cubs debut last year, and veteran Taylor Teagarden. Taylor Davis, the third catcher, was sent back to AA and Teagarden has been seeing plenty of time at first base lately. Iowa will likely use Schwarber and Lopez as the two primary catchers.
“You have to remember, he’s hasn’t caught that many games,” Epstein said. “The 140-game minor-league season is a lot more than he’s ever caught before.”
Schwarber gets his first MLB start in his home state on Wednesday night, serving as the Cubs designated hitter in Cleveland.