Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

Extended leg in squat position eases stress on surgically repaired knee

Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber got a hug from pitcher John Lackey, and then he got to be a catcher on Friday for the first time this spring.

Schwarber caught Lackey's bullpen session, receiving a hug from the Cubs right-hander before they started. Schwarber missed nearly all of last season, tearing two ligaments in his left knee in the third game, and he is projected to play left field most of this year. He was cleared medically to catch one or two days a week in Spring Training, and during his session with Lackey, Schwarber extended his left leg out while squatting to catch the ball to avoid putting extra stress on the knee.

After Lackey's session, Schwarber did some baserunning drills on a back field and hit with the catchers.

"Of course, he wanted to do more and we said, 'No,'" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That was planned. They got together with the [medical staff] this morning, and everything was in order."

Schwarber is considered the third catcher behind Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero. Perhaps in 2018, Schwarber could be given the go-ahead to catch on a regular basis. Maddon didn't want to predict how many games Schwarber would catch this season.

"The main thing is to have him in the lineup and keep him healthy," Maddon said. "He's a young man and there's many more years to come. You don't want to jeopardize the potential to catch him in the future either. All that stuff has to be weighed in making that decision."

Schwarber could continue to extend his left leg while catching in a game. Other catchers, such as Tony Pena and Jose Molina, have done that.

"It's a position you can take with less than two strikes or nobody on base," Maddon said. "With two strikes, you have to be able to block a pitch, and with somebody on base, you have to be able to throw. Any catcher could incorporate that stance if they chose to, with less than two strikes and nobody on."

Besides taking some pressure off a catcher's legs, it also presents a lower target for pitchers, Maddon said.

Schwarber's huge role in 2017

Schwarber is still being considered as the Cubs' new leadoff man. He'll need his legs.

"He always feels like he's being held back a little bit and that's good," Maddon said. "Talking to him specifically and talking to the medical types, he's good, he's good to go."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.