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Port authority: Schwarber shows off work with 2 hits off Kershaw

MESA, Ariz. – It’s only spring training, but that was still Clayton Kershaw on the mound Tuesday at Sloan Park.

“Definitely a good opportunity for me to see one of the premier lefties in baseball,” said young Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber, who has spent much of his hitting work in camp on approaches against left-handers. “Just to see some of his pitches … definitely helped out.”

Schwarber, who didn’t face the Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young winner during his half-seaon debut last season, singled off Kershaw in the first inning Tuesday in their Cactus League matchup, then drove a single to right in the third – after driving a foul ball to the concourse to right.

“I’ve definitely been working on it with [Eric] Hinske in the cages,” Schwarber said of the assistant hitting coach. “It’s just [a matter of] seeing some more pitches. Pitches I should be hitting that I was taking last year, pitches I was swinging at that I shouldn’t have been swinging at. Just more seeing the pitch and working on that in the cage.”

As impressive and impactful as Schwarber was in the Cubs’ second-half playoff push last year, he was just 8-for-56 with 27 strikeouts against left-handers, compared with .278, 14 homers and a .953 OPS against right-handers.

Improving the contact rate against left-handers might be the quickest way for Schwarber to establish himself in the majors, and to avoid getting stuck in a platoon role that could otherwise quickly develop into a left-field job share with Jorge Soler.

“It’s been all good stuff,” Schwarber said. “I’m trying to learn every day watching [Anthony] Rizzo [.294, .881 OPS vs. left-handers last year] hit off lefties, just trying to learn and get better.”