Schwarber on benching: 'Learn and move on'

September 21st, 2020

CHICAGO -- stayed in the Cubs' dugout. The outfielder leaned on the top railing, clapping his hands and cheering on his teammates, and he did so following a moment in which the spotlight was on him for the wrong reasons.

In the third inning of Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Twins at Wrigley Field, Schwarber was pulled from the game by Cubs manager David Ross. The decision revolved around a play in the left-field corner an inning earlier, when Schwarber misplayed a ball and Minnesota's Jake Cave wound up with a triple.

"The guy shouldn't have got to third base there," Schwarber said.

Neither Ross nor Schwarber would divulge the details of their conversation inside the third-base dugout. But, really, the message was loud and clear. The National League Central-leading Cubs (31-22) might be closing in on a division title and postseason berth, but the focus must be tight on every play.

On the mound was Cubs ace -- vying for the NL Cy Young Award -- and the recent collective funk by Chicago's lineup made every pitch and play critical. That is the same mentality that has to be present on the October stage, when one flinch can be the difference between heading home or hoisting a trophy.

Consider Sunday night a test run.

"I put Yu in a tough spot," Schwarber said. "I put him in a bad spot. I put the team in a bad spot there. And I guess you've got to learn from it and move on. I think, obviously, it's not the ideal way to learn from it. But you know what? I think that can take a lot of different punches."

The situation surrounding Schwarber began when Cave slashed a down-and-away fastball from Darvish into the air and up the left-field line. Schwarber hustled to the corner, but the ball hit the ground, bounced high off the bricks and sailed back over the left fielder's head.

Cave, meanwhile, never broke stride. It was going to be a double without question, but the carom, combined with Schwarber's jog to retrieve the ball, created a window for 90 extra feet. Schwarber tried to get a throw off in time, but the baseball arrived off-line and Cave collected his leadoff triple.

"I was not really thinking in the moment," Schwarber said. "I think I could've got to the ball sooner. It keeps him from going to third there. And it might be a different situation."

Two batters later, Cave scored on a groundout off the bat of Max Kepler to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. Kepler extended the advantage to four runs with a two-run homer in the seventh off Darvish, whose ERA climbed to 2.22 on the season.

Asked for his reasoning for pulling Schwarber, Ross offered little.

"I'd like to keep it in house," said the manager. "That's between me and Schwarbs."

Ross did, however, later commend Schwarber's work ethic.

"He busts it every time out there," Ross said. "Just scuffling a little bit at the plate. In here, putting in the work, trying to get better like a lot of our offensive players. When you're not hitting, it's just tough. Baseball's not a whole lot of fun when you're scuffling a little bit."

Darvish wound up with a hard-luck loss, in which he struck out nine and walked one in what was a solid performance overall. Once again, the Cubs' lineup was the real issue. Chicago has put up a zero in 24 of its past 26 offensive innings, with the core group continuing to slump.

Schwarber is batting .190 with a .699 OPS and an 89 wRC+. (.197, .588 and 63), (.212, .718 and 93) and (.205, .606 and 58) have also been in a season-long slide.

"In a normal season, I'd have zero concern," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said prior to Sunday's game. "Just because you feel like we're going to play for four more months and guys will get hot. Great players don't struggle for six months in a normal season. You know that's not going to happen.

"This year is different, right? The clock could run out and some of these guys never get a chance to get hot."

Hoyer also gave credit to how Ross has navigated his way through this unique campaign, especially as a first-year manager.

"He's been outstanding," Hoyer said. "He can deliver a stern message, but he's got so much respect from the guys that they take it in the right ways, listen. He's been stern when he has to be stern. He's been supportive when he needs to be supportive."

In the wake of those words, that concept played out with Schwarber.

"I pride myself on myself being a team guy," Schwarber said. "And a guy who's going to play this game 120 percent every play. I think my teammates understand that, and I think Rossy understands that as well."

That is why Schwarber remained in the dugout to cheer on his teammates.

"I'm not going to be that guy who's going to be selfish," he said. "There's still a game going on. This is bigger than me."