Team's No. 1 Draft pick in 2014 projected to catch, play OF
By Carrie Muskat
CHICAGO -- In one of the Cubs' postseason games, manager Joe Maddon turned to Kyle Schwarber and asked the rookie if he could play third base. Maddon was plotting a possible switch and considering his options. Schwarber said yes and that all he needed was a glove.
The rookie dashed into the clubhouse, grabbed somebody's glove, and returned to the Cubs' dugout ready to go. Schwarber then stood next to catching coach Mike Borzello and confessed that he'd never played third. Ever.
And Borzello wasn't surprised that Schwarber was willing to do it.
One of the hot topics this offseason has been where Schwarber will play for the Cubs in 2016. It won't be third base, but Schwarber will do whatever the team wants, and he'd prefer to catch. That's where Borzello projects him, and not just because the 22-year-old has the physical skills.
"Everyone has a different opinion on where they think he should be, for whatever reason," Borzello said. "Selfishly, I think he's capable of being the leader of this team at some point. I think he has that kind of makeup. I think he has that kind of personality. He cares about the right things.
"I know I'm a catcher, but I feel this is the best position for the leader to be," Borzello said. "That's why I think him being behind the plate would be the best thing. But we'll see how it all plays out."
Borzello, who works with the Cubs' catchers, went to Tampa for one week prior to the Cubs Convention to train with Schwarber and get a head start on Spring Training. Schwarber can anticipate long days in Mesa, Ariz.
"I think he'll be the catcher for the morning, where he'll do the drill work early and catch sides and interact with the pitchers, and for the rest of the day, he'll be in left field," Borzello said.
Last season, Schwarber made 36 starts in left and 15 behind the plate. The Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2014 Draft, he belted 16 homers in 69 games, and then batted .333 in the postseason with five home runs and eight RBIs. The Cubs want his bat in the lineup. They just have to figure out where.
"He's going to be a left fielder/catcher," Borzello said. "I still need him to continue to work as if he's going to be an everyday catcher, because when you sporadically play behind the plate, you kind of lose that rhythm unless you continue to work."
The problem certainly isn't Schwarber's work ethic. During their week together in Florida, Borzello arranged for practice time on the field at the University of Tampa, thanks to some help from "the mayor of Tampa" Tino Martinez.
"It was two hours a day of one-on-one catching -- receiving, blocking, footwork, everything," Borzello said.
And Schwarber couldn't get enough. During the Cubs Convention, Borzello and outfield coach Dave Martinez had a playful exchange about Schwarber and what they wanted him to do. After seeing Schwarber work out, Borzello knows where he wants him.
"I like what I saw when I was there [in Florida]," Borzello said. "He's excited about whatever this will be going forward."