Since being re-called to the Major Leagues after the All Star break, Kyle Schwarber has been on fire at the plate, giving the Chicago Cubs an interesting problem. How do you keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible? As the Cubs figured out not too long ago, one way to do so is on days when he is not catching, put him in left field. So far, he has played well enough for you not to notice him.
Recently, he has been the starting catcher for Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and whatever fifth starter the Cubs put on the mound, today that was Clayton Richard, who enjoyed throwing to him. According to Jesse Rogers, the pitchers he has caught appreciate the work he does.
More and more pitchers going out their way to praise Schwarber behind the plate. Richard today — Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 2, 2015
Now, we know that previously Cubs Manager Joe Maddon has said that Schwarber will not be catching either Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta. So far, for the past couple of weeks, Maddon has lived true to his word. David Ross has caught both Lester and Arrieta, which has recently pushed Schwarber out to left field on those game days.
That is an easy enough equation. Three days behind the plate, two in the field. Schwarber continues to hone his craft as a catcher, and the Cubs can keep his bat in the lineup when he is not learning to be a catcher. However, an interesting wrinkle is about to be thrown into the equation.
What will happen when Miguel Montero returns to the Cubs 25 man roster, and how will Schwarber’s playing and catching time be effected?
When Montero returns, #Cubs will be back to 3 catchers. Maddon: “The challenge will be to keep Schwarb’s bat in lineup as often as possible”
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 2, 2015
So once again the Cubs will have a three headed catching monster.
Do not kid yourselves, Ross will not be designated for assignment to make room for Montero’s return and Schwarber will not be sent back to the minors. So how will the Cubs handle all three catchers, giving them all playing time? They could keep the same catching rotation they have used all season, but that does not benefit the Cubs or Schwarber at all. He still needs to develop his catching skills, and sticking him in left field full time will only delay his development. So how can they mix and match while still putting the best team out there every game?
Well, you can count out his catching Arrieta and Lester, I do not think that Maddon will go away from that game plan. Ross will obviously continue to catch Lester, but Montero might take over catching Arrieta despite the success he has had throwing to Ross. That still leaves three guys that Schwarber can catch. He can still start behind the plate for Hendricks and Hammel, perhaps even new addition Dan Haren, though I think Montero might draw that assignment. Montero has caught Haren before in his career, and we know that Maddon is big on chemistry and comfort between pitcher and catcher.
If Montero is reinstated on Thursday, he will miss both Arrieta and Haren, but activated in time for Hammel who I think would I falls into Schwarber’s responsibility.
To sum things up:
Of course, when he is not catching, Schwarber is likely once again placed in left field, because you want that bat in the lineup ever day.
Things will obviously change next year, as I do not see the Cubs carrying three catchers all year again next year. In all likelyhood, the Cubs will try to trade Montero in the offseason while keeping Ross as the backup with Schwarber getting the bulk of the starts, including when Arrieta pitches; who knows maybe he will even be given a few starts with Lester on the mound.
Juggling three catchers was hard enough when they were Montero, Ross and Welington Castillo; but you want Schwarber’s bat in the lineup far more than Castillo’s. All I can say is thank goodness this is not my decision. Maddon will have to get creative and find ways to keep all three catchers happy, and all three are very important to the Cubs success down the stretch run.