Schwarber goes 0-4 in return, with 2 strikeouts
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon went borderline Shakespearean when talking about Kyle Schwarber's return to the big leagues Thursday.
"I thought he looked really lean and ready, and he looked rested in a sense," Maddon said. "I'm really excited to see him play, too."
Schwarber looked lean and hungry, too, hungry to get back to the big leagues and be a productive player at the plate after struggling for more than two months this season.
The Cubs recalled Schwarber from Class AAA Iowa as they placed pitcher John Lackey on the 10-day disabled list with plantar fasciitis. In Thursday's 11-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Schwarber batted fifth and went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts.
Since optioned on June 22, Schwarber played in 11 games at Iowa, going 12-for-35 (. 343) with 4 homers, a double, 9 RBI, 9 runs, 8 walks and 12 strikeouts.
He batted .171 earlier for the big club, and he was demoted from the leadoff spot. Schwarber missed almost all of last season with a serious knee injury, but he returned to star in the World Series, giving him two strong postseasons in a row. Upon his return to the clubhouse at around 10 Thursday morning, he exuded confidence, and he was greeted warmly by his teammates.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself," he said as he was surrounded by media members. "I still did when I was up here. Now that I was able to go down there and just hash everything down and make it more second nature and stop thinking about it, I think it was an all-around positive experience for me.
"I was able to have fun down there, too, which is very important. Just ready to grind this thing out a little bit. I just think everything got a little too big for me, just my moves and everything like that. It wasn't drastic. It was just being able to focus on some little things. I was just missing my pitch. Being able to shorten things down and get back on my pitch."
As for his positive demeanor, Schwarber was direct.
"I'm not a pouter," he said. "Like I told you, I'm pretty dang confident in myself. I've overcome a lot of different things. I feel like that was a real big learning experience for me. Now knowing what I have to do to get back, if things start going wrong again -- whatever it is -- I feel really confident."
That demeanor pleased both Maddon and team president Theo Epstein.
"It was impressive," Epstein said. "It was all about going to work. He didn't get down on himself emotionally. He wasn't panicking. He just said this is an opportunity to change my environment and get work done so I can get back and help the team. He accomplished everything he set out to do so far. Now it's really a matter of starting his season over again, being patient with his approach and we'll see results."
All parties agreed Schwarber needed a few minor adjustment, specifically smaller movements before the pitch and using the whole field more.
"He's done a real nice job, made a few adjustments, mainly to his approach, a few small mechanical tweaks," Epstein said. "(Hitting coach) John Mallee put a plan in place. It was implemented by Andy Haines, our (minor-league) hitting coordinator. Kyle's worked his tail off and feels really confident, looks great at the plate. This was more about reset for him than it was a rebuilding."
Schwarber says one moment sticks out as when things seemed to be clicking.
"We were in Iowa and we were facing another lefty, and I was able to stay on a pitch to left-center," he said. "I feel like that was kind of the big thing for me, being able to stay on that pitch and drive it to left-center. That was kind of my overall message, was to be able to use the middle of the field. Throughout this whole process, I felt like, left, right, whoever was pitching, I just wanted to focus on that."
Both Maddon and Schwarber maintained that the leadoff position in the order had nothing to do with Schwarber's struggles. Epstein said it remains a mystery.
"We don't know," Epstein said. "My thoughts on that are it's impossible to know. I think it makes sense today to put him where he's at (fifth), and Joe made a good decision, to put him middle of the order, down in the order a little bit. There are somethings you can know about baseball, and there are some things you can't know, and that's one that's almost impossible to tell."