With Montero injured, rookie catcher goes 3-for-4 in loss to Braves
By Carrie Muskat
ATLANTA -- When Kyle Schwarber was called up to the big leagues in June, he knew it was a six-day stint and then he'd be headed back to the Minor Leagues. On Friday, the young catcher was promoted again to the Cubs, and this time, he's being asked to help get the team to the playoffs.
"It's our job to make 'Schwarbs' a Major League catcher as quickly as possible," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs didn't waste any time as Schwarber, 22, was in the lineup on Friday and batted second against the Braves. And Schwarber picked up where he left off, going 3-for-4 with hits in his first three at-bats, including a double. However, he did make a throwing error that led to a run in the Braves' 4-2 win over the Cubs, and was tagged with a second error when Kelly Johnson reached on catcher's interference in the sixth.
"He did his job," Maddon said after the game. "Kyle Schwarber also had a really good day."
"He was awesome," Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks said of the young catcher. "He's very mature for a 22-year-old kid. He's got some stuff to learn, but so do I."
In June, Schwarber was promoted to be the designated hitter in American League ballparks. Now, he's asked to help fill in the gap created by the absence of catcher Miguel Montero, who has a sprained left thumb, suffered last Saturday. Montero, who went on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, saw a hand specialist in Chicago and was expected to get a second opinion in Arizona next week. There's no timetable for his return because the team doesn't know the severity of the injury.
Schwarber, named the MVP of the Futures Game on Monday, was driving to Des Moines on Tuesday to rejoin Triple-A Iowa when he got the phone call from Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein with the news. Schwarber was about 30 minutes outside of Des Moines at that time, and spent the night there, then packed his gear, and headed to Chicago the next day.
"It was nice to have a long time in the car to be able to think to myself and prepare for what's going to come up," Schwarber said. "I talked to Theo, and he said, 'We're going to let you catch and line you up with some guys and go from there.'"
The Cubs will carry three catchers, and Maddon expected David Ross to be matched up with Jon Lester on Saturday, and said Schwarber most likely will not catch Jake Arrieta on Sunday.
"We'll try to pair him up as well as we can and give him a soft landing, catching-wise, and continue to move forward," Maddon said. "We want to try to make the adjustment as easy as possible."
The Cubs' No. 2 prospect, and No. 38 overall by MLBPipeline.com, Schwarber was batting a combined .323/.430/.591 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs in 75 games between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this season, his first full one as a professional.
In his six-game stint in June, including five as the designated hitter, Schwarber went 8-for-22 with a home run, a triple and six RBIs.
"It helped to get all the 'firsts' out of the way, all the nerves, just the awe factor of being here," Schwarber said. "That got away the first day when I was up here. After that, it was all just about winning. I'm up here to go out and win and help the team compete and get a playoff spot. I don't know how long it's going to be for, but I'll play for as long as it can be."
There's no doubting that Schwarber is a confident young man. Just listen to him.
"It's all about having confidence," Schwarber said. "I'll be the most confident person back there. I won't be second-guessing myself. You've got to go with your decision and you've got to have conviction with what you're going to call and what you're going to do."
There has been no talk about playing the outfield, and Maddon said he wants Schwarber to focus on catching.
"It's all in my hands," Schwarber said. "I want to help this team win and do what I can to be productive. There's no pressure, no added pressure to me. I'm just going to go out and play my game and help this team win."