(CBS) A nightmarish season for Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber will now include a trip to Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs are optioning the 24-year-old Schwarber down to the minor leagues as he continues to struggle, 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine confirmed. CSN Chicago first reported the news.
Schwarber is hitting .171 with 12 homers, 28 RBIs and a .673 OPS in 64 games this season. He’s hitting .196 this month and lost his job as the team’s lead-off hitter in the latter half of May, after which he was dropped even further in the order.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein explained to the Spiegel and Parkins Show how the team reached the decision at this point in time.
“We reached a point recently where on the mental side, it has reached a point where it was really tough,” Epstein said. “As hard as Kyle was working — working harder than anyone — it had gotten so deep that it was hard for him to take the things he was working on in the cage and take them out into the game with him. You reach a point where you’re trying to survive. You’re just trying to put the ball in play. You’re not yourself. You’re searching for your identity as a hitter on a nightly basis. That’s just really hard.
The trip to Iowa comes as the Cubs leave for an 11-game road trip. Epstein didn’t set a timeline for how long Schwarber would be at Triple-A, saying he didn’t expect it to be too long but that he also didn’t see it spiraling to this extent.
“Until he’s himself again,” Epstein said of Schwarber’s Triple-A stay.
The Iowa Cubs are at Round Rock (Texas) for a four-game series starting Thursday before returning home to Des Moines on Monday. The Cubs have encouraged Schwarber to get away from baseball for a few days.
Schwarber’s struggles this year have come after he reached cult hero status at the end of the Cubs’ championship season in 2016, when he returned from a serious knee injury that was expected to keep him out all year and hit .412 in the World Series.
For his short MLB career spanning three seasons, Schwarber is a .207 hitter.
Triple-A outfielder Mark Zagunis is expected to be recalled in Schwarber’s place. The 24-year-old Zaguinis is hitting .249 with 11 homers, 35 RBIs and a .873 OPS in 65 games at Iowa this season.