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Schwarber returns to Cubs with clear head

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber called his time in the Minor Leagues a positive learning experience, and he eagerly rejoined the Cubs on Thursday, feeling better about his swing and himself.

"I'm ready to clean the slate and get back to business," Schwarber said.

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CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber called his time in the Minor Leagues a positive learning experience, and he eagerly rejoined the Cubs on Thursday, feeling better about his swing and himself.

"I'm ready to clean the slate and get back to business," Schwarber said.

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The outfielder was sent to Triple-A Iowa after batting .171. In 11 games with the Minor League team, working with roving hitting instructor Andy Haines, Schwarber hit .343 with four home runs and one double. On Wednesday, he went 1-for-2 with a walk against Oklahoma City.

Schwarber started in left field and batted fifth on Thursday, and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Cubs' 11-2 loss to the Brewers.

"I think it's too early to tell anything," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Let's just take it one game at a time."

The good news is that at Iowa, Schwarber did have a moment when he knew his swing was right and he was on the right track.

"We were in Iowa, and facing a lefty and I stayed on a pitch left-center, and I feel that was the big thing for me -- being able to stay on that pitch and drive it to left-center," Schwarber said. "That was my overall message, to use the middle of the field better. I felt that throughout the whole process. Right, left, whoever was pitching, I wanted to focus on that."

"He's done a real nice job, made a few adjustments, mainly with his approach," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "This was more about a reset for him than it was about rebuilding. In the couple weeks he was down there, he accomplished what we wanted him to accomplish."

Epstein watched every one of Schwarber's at-bats, and he and the coaching staff decided the outfielder was ready.

"I think everything got too big for me, just my moves," Schwarber said. "[I needed to] focus on some little things. It wasn't drastic, it was just being able to focus on little things. I was just missing my pitch and being able to shorten things down and get back on my pitch, now it's feeling good."

Epstein said Schwarber now has smaller pre-pitch movement at the plate, he's using the field more and is more balanced. Plus, he's keeping the bat in the hitting zone longer and seeing the ball better. In his last at-bat on Wednesday, Schwarber drove a ball off the wall in left-center.

"It was a classic Schwarber swing," Epstein said. "He thinks he's found himself, and that's what this was all about."

Rather than insert Schwarber back in the leadoff spot, which is where he started the season, he was batting fifth on Thursday against the Brewers. Maddon said he wanted to see Schwarber before deciding whether to put him back at No. 1.

Schwarber doesn't feel that leading off contributed to his early struggles.

"It's not because I was hitting first or eighth," Schwarber said. "It's because something wasn't working right. I'm doing what I want to do now and looking forward to being up here and helping the team win again."

He was welcomed back with hugs from his teammates, eager to have him back in the lineup and on the bench.

"He's a highly accountable young man," Maddon said. "He knew he needed it, he was probably kind of expecting it in advance and it was probably somewhat of a relief just being able to do that, go there, away from the maddening crowd and attempt to get yourself back together. He handled everything properly."

Schwarber knows something about comebacks. He missed almost all of last season after tearing two ligaments in his left knee. He then returned for the World Series and batted .412 in five games. But he scuffled this season, and he was 38-for-222 in 64 games with 75 strikeouts before he was sent to Iowa.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself and I did when I was up here," Schwarber said. "Now that I was able to go down there and hash everything and make it more second nature and stop thinking about it, I think it was overall a really positive experience for me."

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.

Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber