MESA, Ariz. — Lots of folks remember how rough it was for Kyle Schwarber in left field during the National League Championship Series in 2015.
In the seventh inning of a close Game 3 against the Mets at Wrigley Field, Schwarber reached up to snag a relatively easy line drive and missed the ball. He had a disastrous time charging in on sinking line drives in Game 4 at Wrigley, allowing one to sneak under his glove and roll to the wall and another — on what should’ve been an easy play — to fly over his glove for a cheap hit.
Schwarber’s defensive blunders had no real bearing on a series in which the Cubs were utterly dominated, but there are lingering doubts about his ability to play it clean as the team’s primary left fielder this season.
Manager Joe Maddon insisted Saturday he has ‘‘no issues’’ on that front.
‘‘I think he’s going to be very good out there,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘His work is impeccable. He runs better than you think. His arm is fine. He wants to do it, and anything he wants to do, he does and does it well.’’
Schwarber made a leaping catch at the wall Thursday against the Mariners, a play that created some buzz around Cubs camp. Still, we’re not talking about Starling Marte — the Pirates outfielder who has won consecutive Gold Gloves — here. We’re not talking about Jon Jay, either.
Expect the veteran Jay, a terrific outfielder, to replace Schwarber often in the late innings when the Cubs are winning. Maddon likes to set up his defense in such scenarios, and the Cubs can’t top Jay, Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward from left to right.
‘‘All three would be very nice to have in there in the latter part of the game,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘It’s probably something we will do.
‘‘I just spoke very highly about Kyle, and I do believe that. But if you can improve your defense in the latter part of the game, you do that.’’
Birds of a feather
Heyward isn’t one to talk smack, but his eyes lit up when he was asked about playing next to Jay in the Cardinals’ outfield in 2015. The versatile Jay was an occasional starter and frequent defensive substitution on that team.
‘‘Him in center and me in right field? If you did that, it didn’t matter who you put in left field,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘Sometimes in late-game situations, they’d have me in center and him in right, especially if he didn’t start the game. Either way, it didn’t even matter who was in left.’’
Happy Selection Sunday, Northwestern. A certain white-bearded, buzz-cut, shades-wearing T-shirt enthusiast is behind you every step of the way. From this point forward, that is.
‘‘I wasn’t even mentally aware of that because I don’t follow anything,’’ Maddon said when asked for his take on the Wildcats’ breakthrough success. ‘‘I met coach [Chris] Collins, and I know his daddy. I think it’s great. They come out to Wrigley. It’s wonderful. I will watch more closely now that I’m aware of it.’’
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