GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Once again, Jason Hammel and Kyle Schwarber were paired together, and it was good. The young catcher showed off his arm, too, picking off two baserunners in the Cubs' 9-6 win over the Reds Tuesday.
"I felt at first I didn't have to be out there," Hammel said. "All I had to do is get it to the plate, and let him do whatever he wanted. A couple pickoffs there makes my job real easy."
Hammel did stay for five innings in another efficient outing. He got help from Schwarber in the second. Jay Bruce singled to lead off, and Schwarber caught him too far off the bag for pickoff No. 1. In the third inning, pinch-hitter Ray Chang singled but Schwarber snuffed him out when he fired to first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a back pick to end the inning.
"That was more a spur of the moment thing," Schwarber said of the Chang play. "You pick a slider, you see the guy is off a lot, it's an automatic pick. Whenever you see Bruce try to steal and stop halfway, what are you going to do? You have to throw it to first there. It was all good stuff today."
Hammel was happy.
"I expect that and I like it, I like him being aggressive," Hammel said. "It keeps my pitch count down. We get out there and keep the pace of the game going."
Schwarber has been doing double duty this spring, working with the catchers and the outfielders. He did catch quite a bit last season, so the extra work isn't too much and shrugs off questions as to whether he can handle both.
The Cubs have been pairing him with Hammel recently, and although manager Joe Maddon said it wouldn't be an exclusive match-up like Jon Lester and David Ross, having Schwarber and the right-hander together could give Miguel Montero another breather.
"Whatever works," Schwarber said. "I'm comfortable with Hammel, I think he's comfortable with me. Every time, I want him to get down in the zone and just pound the strike zone. He's been doing a good job with it. He's making it easy on me back there, too."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.