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Schwarber feeling lighter ... without knee brace

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber feels as if he lost a ton of weight and it has nothing to do with his offseason diet.

The Cubs outfielder no longer has to wear the bulky brace to protect his left knee, which he had worn since he underwent surgery to repair two torn ligaments suffered in the third game of the 2016 season.

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber feels as if he lost a ton of weight and it has nothing to do with his offseason diet.

The Cubs outfielder no longer has to wear the bulky brace to protect his left knee, which he had worn since he underwent surgery to repair two torn ligaments suffered in the third game of the 2016 season.

"It's funny, because you don't think it has a big effect on yourself when you put it on, but when you take it off, it really does feel different and makes you feel more mobile and less restricted," Schwarber said Monday. "The knee's stable now. It's just more of a precautionary thing in case that same collision happens, but that was a freak accident and happens maybe once a year to every team. Just be cautious out there and be aware, but play hard."

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Schwarber, who lost more than 20 pounds this offseason after a change in his eating habits, asked the Cubs' medical staff at the end of last season if he could ditch the brace.

"They said, 'You're good to go,'" he said.

The focus now is becoming a better outfielder.

"I want to go out there and make the plays I'm supposed to make," Schwarber said. "That's my thing right now. I'll keep working with these guys."

Since he arrived in camp, Schwarber has been asked if he feels different after losing the weight.

Video: Maddon talks about Schwarber being quicker

"I feel good out there," he said. "Having our group of outfielders there and having [coach Will Venable] and [outfield coach Doug Dascenzo] out there now, everything's going really well. Being able to work with these guys, it definitely helps."

Now, it's a matter of Schwarber improving his technique to get to balls quicker. Manager Joe Maddon has seen a difference.

"I watch him on the bases, and it seems everything moves more easily," Maddon said. "Having said that, I never thought he was slow. I always thought he moved well for a big man. I think all of this is going to help. When you mentally do what he did, it's like you deserve to do better. He's going to be better because of the work he did, plus the information he's received."

Schwarber is keeping the knee brace in his locker. He'll need it if he catches again. He's considered the No. 3 catcher and has caught at least one bullpen session so far this spring.

"I snuck in there once -- just in case for an emergency situation," Schwarber said. "I want to keep the hands fresh and eyes fresh back there. It's not every day, go back there [with the catchers], sneak in, and then run out to the outfield. Outfield -- I want [that] to be the primary focus.

"I want to be really good out there, and in case a situation does come up where Skip -- he loves to do double switches and everything, or if someone gets hurt, or we double switch and for some reason Willson [Contreras] has to come out of the game, I can be back there, too," Schwarber said.

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.

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber