Cubs’ David Ross on Kyle Schwarber DH-ing: ‘He’s ready to do whatever I ask’
But will DH-ing make Schwarber happy? As he said during spring training in 2018: “I’m a [bleeping] baseball player. I want to be on the field with a glove on, helping my team win.”
Kyle Schwarber has done and seen it all since the Cubs selected him with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 draft.
Well, not ‘‘all.’’ But a lot.
He parked a baseball atop the right-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field during the 2015 playoffs, the most memorable moment in a spectacular break-in to the big leagues.
He suffered a devastating knee injury that cost him nearly all of 2016.
A leadoff assignment gone haywire led to his demotion to Class AAA Iowa in 2017.
In five full or partial seasons in the majors, Schwarber, 27, has established himself as an everyday offensive threat. Along the way, he has won a World Series, had his catcher’s gear taken from him, reshaped his body and paid heavy dues — including a handful of embarrassing moments — to try to prove himself as an outfielder.
Better off in the American League as a designated hitter? More than a few critics have dismissed Schwarber’s defensive ability and potential with that assessment.
In 2020, though, with a universal DH in play, he can be the Cubs’ main man in that role and make a lot of people happy. But will that make him happy?
As former manager Joe Maddon was fond of saying of Schwarber: Tell him he can’t do something, and he’ll do everything he can to prove you wrong. Or as Schwarber himself said during spring training in 2018: ‘‘I’m a [bleeping] baseball player. I want to be on the field with a glove on, helping my team win.’’
Good luck finding a forecast of the Cubs’ upcoming 60-game season that doesn’t include ‘‘Schwarber’’ and ‘‘DH’’ in the same sentence. It seems to be everybody’s assumption that he’s new manager David Ross’ best option for that job.
Ross and Schwarber have been over the matter — though not face-to-face — as plans for a season slowly came together.
‘‘I think we’re on the same page,’’ Ross said. ‘‘He’s ready to do whatever I ask and [play] wherever I put him. . . .
‘‘He’s comfortable in the DH spot. He has told me that. And I told him it’s not going to be strictly a DH role for him. I will balance that lineup and try to play who’s giving us the best at-bats and [exploit] some matchup things we may find to put guys in the right situations.’’
Ross also mentioned outfielder Steven Souza and catchers Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras as players who occasionally could slide into the DH spot. Newcomer Souza did very little DH-ing during his years in the AL, but he’s a big guy coming off a major knee injury in 2019, and the Cubs didn’t sign him for his defense.
The left-handed-hitting Schwarber would seem to be a lock to be in the lineup against right-handed pitching and — if he’s seeing the ball well — will tempt Ross to write his name on the card no matter who’s on the mound. In such a short season, Ross likely will err on the side of lineup stability.
‘‘From a roster standpoint, I do feel there’s a lot of different ways to do it,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘[The DH] can be one player, or it can be a spot that allows you to give some guys some rest. . . . Certainly, I think we have a lot of really good players that can fill in.’’
A betting person would be wise to take Schwarber in the most-games-at-DH pool, but Ross isn’t ready to frame it that way.
‘‘I don’t see Kyle as a huge outfield risk for us,’’ he said. ‘‘We do have some guys that are better defensive outfielders than Kyle, but he plays a solid left field to me, and I don’t have any hesitation with putting him out there.’’