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Cubs already seek to play Schwarber more, but won’t rush plan

ATLANTA – Rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber’s developing defensive skills impressed Cubs staff enough Friday that manager Joe Maddon said Saturday he’s considering putting Schwarber behind the plate Sunday with Jake Arrieta on the mound.

“My first impression was to not,” said Maddon, who had excluded “stuff” veterans Arrieta and Jon Lester from Schwarber’s list of battery mates. Arrieta has the top velocity and hardest-breaking pitches among the starters.

“He did OK [Friday],” Maddon said. “We’ll see.”

Schwarber, 22, caught second-year right-hander Kyle Hendricks and three relievers in a 4-2 loss to the Braves.

“For his first start catching in the big leagues, pretty damn good,” Hendricks said. “You’ve got to give it to him.”

Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick out of Indiana barely a year ago, also had three hits, including a double, underscoring the desire to get his bat in the lineup for a team struggling to score.

The Cubs have scored two or fewer runs in 14 of their last 20 games.

Maddon said he’s comfortable inserting Schwarber at catcher as part of double switches.

And he plans to get Schwarber pregame work in the outfield, especially on days he isn’t scheduled to start. Maddon doesn’t want to use Schwarber out there until he’s acclimated.

Schwarber played 36 games in left field in the minors last year but hasn’t played any outfield this year.

“I have a lot of faith in the guy,” Maddon said. “He really cares. He works extremely hard. If you can care to a fault, that’s him. We just want to make sure we bring him up properly and don’t put too much on him too quickly.

“For the American League, it’s a no-brainer. But being in a National League situation, it’s much more difficult.”

Including a six-game debut last month as the Cubs’ designated hitter during interleague play, Schwarber is 11-for-26 (.423) with a double, triple, home run, six RBI and one walk (intentional).

“It’s about what’s best for us and for him,” Maddon said. “We cannot forget this guy’s still being developed. He’s being developed on a major-league level. The fact that he’s here doing what he’s doing right now speaks a lot to him, and to the instruction and the coaches that have worked with him to this point.

“We’ll take [Friday]. I thought he had a wonderful day. And we’ll just keep trying to make him continue to have wonderful days without trying to push it too hard.”