Hammel thrives again with Schwarber behind plate

Veteran righty could continue to be paired with young slugger going forward

March 18th, 2016

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Lester has David Ross as his personal catcher. Could Jason Hammel be paired this season with Kyle Schwarber?

The Cubs are considering a Hammel and Schwarber match, and on Thursday, the two gave manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio more reasons to consider it. Hammel struck out six over four innings against the D-backs with Schwarber behind the plate. Schwarber also delivered an RBI triple in Chicago's 15-4 victory.

Hammel was happy with his slider, and he was able to keep it down in the zone and get a lot of swings and misses with it.

"That's what I was most excited about today was everything was down," the right-hander said of his pitches. "A couple pitches that Schwarber had trouble handling behind the dish was more for plane-wise. It was kind of hard to see out there today with a tough sun and shadows. I thought he was really good back there. We're on the same page right now."

Schwarber did catch Hammel's last regular-season start in 2015, and also several of his bullpen sessions. The latter work was more to help Schwarber in his development as a catcher; he played more games in the outfield than he did behind the plate.

"It's no knock on [Miguel Montero], but we're trying to find a way to get big bats in the lineup, too," Hammel said. "If [being matched with Schwarber] is the way it ends up playing out, I welcome it 100 percent."

Why does it work?

"I think, first of all, he's a student of the game and he's ready to learn," Hammel said of the Cubs' top 2014 Draft pick. "He made a lot of adjustments over the offseason and even early this spring in game calling. You see him sticking his leg out and he's a little lower target than last year. That only helps guys like me -- tall leverage -- where I need that little extra sight line down, that helps a lot, too."

Hammel is willing to throw to anyone, but being paired with Schwarber so far is clicking.

"Miggy and I worked together all last year, and if you go back to '14, I had [John] Baker all the time," Hammel said. "It puts the guys on the same page, because you see the same thing every time. Decision making becomes quicker and smarter because you know what the other guy is thinking -- you're thinking on the same wave length. It's two brains combined into one. Baker even caught my sides. It's only going to help."

Hammel hasn't talked to anyone about having Schwarber as his personal backstop, but may do so soon.

"I'm ready to," Hammel said. "Whoever wants to get back there, I'm going to welcome. We have three good ones."