Cubs' Schwarber seeing some success in leadoff spot

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber hits a solo home run during the first inning Friday against the Reds at Wrigley Field. It was Schwarber's eighth homer of the season and his first career leadoff homer.

    Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber hits a solo home run during the first inning Friday against the Reds at Wrigley Field. It was Schwarber's eighth homer of the season and his first career leadoff homer. Associated Press

 
 

When Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon experimented two years ago with batting left fielder Kyle Schwarber leadoff, it was a cause célèbre like few others seen around Wrigley Field in recent years.

It didn't help that Schwarber struggled in that role and was sent to the minor leagues for a brief spell.

For the last nine games, Maddon has made Schwarber his leadoff hitter again, and nary a word has been said, or at least it seems that way.

Schwarber led off the bottom of the first inning of Friday's 6-5 loss to the Reds with his eighth homer of the season and his first career leadoff homer. He is 9-for-34 since being moved to the top spot.

"When you have success, it's one of those things, you have to believe it to see it," Maddon said. "Sometimes there are other folks who have to see it to believe it. I just thought it was the right time. I liked it back then (in 2017). However, he did not react well at that moment. But if you look at his overall abilities as they stand right now, for me, that's a perfect spot for him, especially in our lineup."

Maddon added that Schwarber has grown into the role.

"He's made some adjustments recently," he said. "He's more mature as a hitter. He's understanding it better, all those things are involved. I like it. I could have done it earlier this year but he really wasn't doing what he's doing right now earlier this year. I think these last three weeks or so he's really morphed into the hitter we thought he could be. I think timing, that's what I'm trying to get to. Timing was right to give it a go."

Good feeling for Chatwood:

Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood said he is heartened by the support he has received from fans at Wrigley Field.

Chatwood was given a loud ovation Wednesday night after pitching 4 innings in relief of Cole Hamels in the Cubs's 8-4 victory. Chatwood pitched 4-plus innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball to improve to 3-0 with a 2.86 ERA.

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"Awesome," he said of the ovation. "I really wasn't expecting that. I was hoping to finish the night. Coming out to that, it was pretty special. (Teammate Steve) Cishek texted me that night and said he had goose bumps going out there (to relieve Chatwood) because he heard it. Definitely pretty special."

Chatwood struggled with his command last year and lost his job in the starting rotation. His WHIP this year is 1.34, down from last year's 1.80. The walks-per-9-innings is down from last year's 8.2 to 5.7.

In Thursday's loss to the Phillies, Chatwood came up as a pinch hitter and hit an RBI double.

"That was pretty cool," he said. "I knew that I was going to get a chance. I knew I was going to be fourth that inning. I watched some video for the first time on a pitcher. I knew I was going to get a split, and luckily I didn't miss it."

Up and down:

The Cubs made another bullpen switch, recalling right-hander James Norwood from Class AAA Iowa and optioning righty Rowan Wick to Iowa.

Wick came up Thursday and made his Cubs debut, pitching 1 inning and giving up 2 hits and a run.

"Threw hard, threw strikes," said Joe Maddon. "I talked to him afterward. The one thing he really didn't feel early on was his curveball, which is a really good pitch for him. It just could have been first time out, a little bit nerves, and that's fine.

"But I thought he represented himself well. I told him so. For me from the side, I thought he was in control of his emotions. Went right after the hitters. Was unfortunate how they scored the run, but I kind of liked it."

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