Joe Maddon confident in Kyle Schwarber as a catcher
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Kyle Schwarber once again started in left field Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, and he hasn’t caught since Miguel Montero returned from the disabled list on Aug. 7. But Joe Maddon didn’t think that would Schwarber’s progress behind the plate.
“I think that he’s already caught enough here to know that he can catch here,” Maddon said. “He still works every day, or not every day, but often with (catching/strategy coach) Mike Borzello. They get together and they’re still working on all the stuff. I have no issues or concerns that when he’s able to catch more consistently that he’s going to catch well.”
That said, it wouldn’t hurt Schwarber to catch occasionally, though playing left field has other advantages.
“Of course you’d like to see him play a little more (catcher). I’m not going to deny that, but the way it’s set up right now with Miggy being back and David (Ross) here also, just to keep his bat in left field, I think it also can keep him fresher for the end of the season by not having to squat all the time,” Maddon said. “There’s that part of it also that might be beneficial to him and to us.”
Schwarber was last behind the plate Aug. 6.
Watch your hands
Both Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler’s homers landed in the basket in front of the left-field bleachers. Addison Russell’s in the sixth might have if not for a fan who reached out to catch it, forcing a review that let the homer stand.
“That’s something that seems to be an issue at the ballpark here. It’s been going on for several years now,” Maddon said. “I was wondering if the guy had a Braves shirt on or not. I don’t know.”
That’s just the latest similar incident, after a fan reached over the basket Tuesday to grab a Miguel Cabrera drive. In June, there was the fan holding a baby who caught a foul pop in front of the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, not to mention a certain play during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.
Maddon, always helpful, had some advice to avoid more events like that.
“Cub fans, just keep your hands in your pockets until the ball goes over the wall,” Maddon said.
Anthony Rizzo hit his 25th homer in the third to become the fifth lefty in team history with that many in multiple seasons.
He did it on the first pitch of the at-bat, and entering Saturday, he was hitting .448 with six homers on the first pitch.
“He’s really good at working an at-bat mentally. He will say things to me as he’s going to the on-deck circle and it’s very calculated. It’s very well thought out,” Maddon said. “He’s really mature beyond his years, actually, as a hitter I think. As a baseball player he’s done a great job, but he’s really good at figuring out what the pitcher’s trying to do.”
Holding it down
Jason Motte won his eighth game out of the bullpen Friday, but that was far from the only positive coming from the relievers entering Saturday.
As a group, they threw four scoreless innings and allowed only two baserunners. Justin Grimm worked the seventh and hasn’t allowed a run in his last 15 appearances. Pedro Strop has given up a run only once in his last 15 outings and has a 1.80 ERA over that span. Hector Rondon picked up his 22nd save and has a 0.49 ERA over his last 37 appearances.
“Guys just go out there and we’re ready to go whenever the phone rings,” Motte said.
The Cubs’ 3.40 bullpen ERA was 12th in baseball and sixth in the National League.
Javier Baez is giving the Cubs even more reason to bring him back when rosters expand next month.
In a 12-8 loss Friday night for Iowa against Salt Lake, Baez played second base and went 2-for-4, hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs. Baez raised his batting average to .305 and extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over that stretch, Baez has multiple hits in all seven games, is hitting .455 and has driven in eight runs.