Otto: Cubs' Schwarber can learn a lot during rehab
Everyone associated with the Chicago Cubs has painted a positive and upbeat picture in response to Kyle Schwarber's season-ending injury. Based on last year's performance, and the additions of players such as Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs appear to have some flexibility in their everyday lineup.
Joe Maddon did a great job last season of plugging players into different positions, and he will already be tested again this year. While this is a significant blow to the club, great clubs find a way to overcome it.
And now for Kyle. Hopefully, this will be the biggest obstacle that he has to overcome in his career. The rehab will be long and difficult. And it won't be easy for him to sit and watch his teammates compete. Kyle has indicated to the club that he wants to be with the team during his rehab process, and that's outstanding to hear.
The beauty of baseball is you never stop learning. And while there is no substitute for being on the field and living it, there still is a lot to learn. I have heard many coaches (ex-players) say they wished they had coached before they played. Although impossible, I share those sentiments.
There are so many tidbits that you pick up while coaching and observing. You wish you could go back in time and apply those learning points to your own playing career.
While Kyle will not be a coach this season, he will have the opportunity to observe and learn from a little different perspective.
• Learn every pitcher in the league. Each pitcher has tendencies. One might tend to pitch backward, where he throws curveballs/change-ups when behind in the count (2 and 0), and fastballs when ahead in the count (1 and 2). One left-hander might try to pound the ball inside to left-handed power hitters with men on base. There might be an at-bat for Kyle in 2017 when that knowledge comes into play.
• Learn every hitter in the league. As a catcher, Kyle has double duty. Not only does he have to learn every pitcher in the league, but he has to figure out how to get hitters out. Every hitter has a hole in his swing, an area in the strike zone (or out of the zone) where you have a good chance of getting him out.
There is nothing more valuable to a pitcher than a catcher that is in sync with how you are trying to get hitters out. Kyle will have some time to spend with Cub pitchers and gain a greater understanding of how each pitcher works.
Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants suffered a season-ending injury on May 25, 2011. He was 24 years old at the time. The following year, Posey hit .336 and won the NL batting title. Posey and the Giants now have three World Series titles and I imagine Posey hasn't looked back.
Kyle Schwarber is 23 years old and had a nice start to his major-league career in 2015. Eventually Kyle will look back on 2016 as a bump in the road for him. It is now time for him to hammer his rehab and learn.
I have no doubt that he will.
Lester looked sharp:
The Cubs have to be pleased with the way Jon Lester pitched in his first start against the Los Angeles Angels.
Compared to last April, it looks like Jon has much more command of his pitches. His biggest weapon is the cutter that he runs in on the hands of right-handed hitters. When Lester is dealing, he hammers the inside part of the plate to righties with that cutter, then throws his soft stuff (curveball and changeup) to the outer half of the plate. And in games where he is able to throw the cutter away to righties (back door), forget about it. Game over.
• Dave Otto, a standout athlete at Elk Grove High School, pitched from 1987-1994 for four MLB teams, including the Cubs. A former baseball analyst for WGN Radio, FoxSportsNet and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Otto also is a member of the University of Missouri Hall of Fame.