Schwarber joins Cubs, sees first MLB action
Club's top hitting prospect gets first big league at-bat, inning behind plate
CHICAGO -- David Ross, who was Kyle Schwarber's locker mate in Spring Training, told the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, promoted Tuesday, to make sure he sits next to the veteran on the bench.
"He belongs here and it's nice to have him around," Ross said. "The numbers he was putting up in the Minor Leagues were crazy. I think we're a better team with him in our lineup."
Schwarber, called up from Double-A Tennessee, where he was batting .320, wasn't in the Cubs' lineup yet. He'll be used as the designated hitter in the Cubs' next five games at American League ballparks, and is expected to get his first start on Wednesday in Cleveland.
However, Schwarber did get to catch one inning Tuesday, subbing for Miguel Montero in the ninth inning in a 6-0 loss to the Indians. He also got his first Major League at-bat in the ninth, and struck out looking on three pitches against lefty Marc Rzepczynski.
"My at-bat wasn't the best at-bat at all but I got the first one out of the way," he said. "It can only go up from there, I guess."
The good news is he wasn't nervous.
"I was surprised how calm I was going back there for the first time," Schwarber said. "My first at-bat, I didn't seem rushed or anything. Just getting the first one out of the way, it can only go up."
After this stint, Schwarber is headed to Triple-A Iowa.
"We think it's a perfect pit stop for him on the way to Triple-A," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "Once you're at Triple-A, you're an injury away from being pushed into action at the big league level."
The Cubs will encourage Schwarber to shadow Ross. They are committed to having the 22-year-old continue to catch.
"We believe in his bat and we think he can help us win some games in his brief stint up here," Epstein said.
"He's definitely talented enough," Ross said of Schwarber, the fourth player taken overall in the 2014 Draft. "I told him to sit next to me and if there's any questions about where to be or where to go or how to prepare, let me know. We're happy to have him."
These six games could pay off in September, too.
"I like the idea of him getting his feet wet," manager Joe Maddon said. "I asked him to take mental snapshots and really enjoy the moment and if he's a little freaked out, it's absolutely normal."
Maddon didn't see a downside to the brief promotion.
"I want to believe that with this guy, it's not going to be a complacent feeling after this, it'll be more of a dangling carrot that, 'I want to get back up there,'" Maddon said.
Schwarber is definitely motivated. He's one of the first players at the ballpark every day in the Minor Leagues to study video and prepare for that day's games.
"One of my coaches told me when I was back in Tennessee after I had a bad game, he said, 'You need to look at how much better you are from a year ago to now,'" Schwarber said. "[He said] 'If that progress keeps going, I think I'll be very happy with where I'll be defensive wise.'"
Schwarber got the news that he's getting the call after Monday's game, then celebrated with his teammates and admitted he didn't sleep much. His family was at Wrigley Field to watch in case he got an at-bat.
"I think he's exceeded our expectations to this point," Epstein said of Schwarber. "We're more convinced now than ever that he's going to catch and catch a long time in the big leagues."
Schwarber hit in the cage with fellow rookie Addison Russell, a veteran of 46 big league games, and got some guidance from the other players.
"It really is the same game you've been playing your whole life," Kris Bryant said. "It's a little different up here -- there's more people in the stands, their stuff is a little sharper, a little faster, but you have to take the attitude that it's the same game you're playing your whole life."
Ross said some of the Cubs' rookies have made the transition look easy but said it is different in the big leagues.
"[Class] A ball, Double-A, Triple-A, it's not the Major Leagues," Ross said. "It's just getting up here, getting their feet wet and let them figure out how they fit in and where they fit in. There's so much young talent here and guys who are true professionals and learning how to win, and it's fun to be part of for an old guy like me."
Schwarber expected a few butterflies.
"It's the same game I've been playing for years," he said. "I'm going to try to keep it calm and easy every plate appearance."