Kyle Schwarber's season-ending injury will obviously test the Cubs depth throughout the season, but to this point, the transformation and maturation of outfielder Matt Szczur is making matters easier.Szczur entered Saturday's game against the Rockies 4-for-10 this season with a double, a home run and five RBIs.He was penciled into
Kyle Schwarber's season-ending injury will obviously test the Cubs depth throughout the season, but to this point, the transformation and maturation of outfielder Matt Szczur is making matters easier.
Szczur entered Saturday's game against the Rockies 4-for-10 this season with a double, a home run and five RBIs.
He was penciled into the lineup in right field in the Cubs' 6-2 win over the Rockies on Saturday to give the left-handed Jason Heyward a day off against reverse-split right-hander Christian Bergman.
Szczur entered this spring fighting for a spot on the Cubs' roster, and he is still playing for his future in the organization. Right now, manager Joe Maddon said he likes what he's seeing.
"What you're seeing now is what he's been doing in the Minor Leagues," Maddon said. "I think he's finally getting comfortable. If you watch him in batting practice, there's more of a tension-free approach to his game. It's not up-tight. He is thinking here as he thought at Triple-A or at Villanova."
Szczur, 26, has adjusted his swing so he is no longer coming around the ball and sweeping grounders to the left side. Instead, he's getting the ball in the air and using his natural strength to make it carry.
Maddon said Szczur's athletic ability is hard to ignore -- he is a former Villanova football player, after all. But what's more important is Szczur's mentality.
"I've only known him for a little over a year, and I can see a definite difference in just his approach to the day here at the Major League level," Maddon said.
Maddon said he hopes to get infielder Javier Baez two or three starts per week this season in hopes of furthering the former first-round pick's Major League development.
Baez's ability to play middle infield and outfield makes that possible, but balancing Baez's development with the Cubs' prodigious lineup still creates a challenge.
Saturday, Baez made his first start of the season since being activated off the disabled list. Maddon saw Saturday as a good opportunity to give second baseman Ben Zobrist a day off.
"He's got a high-maintenance swing and he's young, so he needs to continue to get at-bats," Maddon said. "That's the difficult part about all of this … to nurture him along right now along with a team that has a chance to do something really special this year."
David Ross' lineup spot Saturday and his usual scheduled start to catch Jon Lester on Sunday means the 39-year-old catcher will be behind the plate back-to-back days.
With Schwarber's injury taking him out of the catching mix, don't be shocked to see Ross do this more often.
"David had a really good spring," Maddon said. "We've built him to this point gradually, I think, were he can go two days in a row."
Maddon added he doesn't see Ross ever playing three days in a row, and he plans to start Miguel Montero at catcher all three games in the Cubs' upcoming series against the Cardinals.
Cody Stavenhagen is an associate reporter for MLB.com.