By Bruce Levine–
(670 The Score) — Upon first seeing Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber at the Winter Meetings back in December, you had to look again. A slimmed-down Schwarber had lost 20 pounds this offseason.
At that time, Schwarber didn’t want to make much about his body transformation, as he was there to meet with Cubs executives about how his training regiment was going. On Friday as the Cubs Convention opened in downtown Chicago, Schwarber couldn’t dodge the subject with team officials, coaches, teammates and fans all in attendance.
It was the new “Body by Kyle,” as they might joke.
“They got me pretty good at the Rizzo fundraising function,” Schwarber said of teammate Anthony Rizzo’s event in which he got razzed. “This (weight loss) was a personal choice. I want to be the best player I can possibly be. I think that it starts there for me .That won’t help me hit .500. You just want to control things you can control.”
There was no question that the 2017 campaign was a disappointing one for Schwarber, who hit .211 with 30 homers, 59 RBIs and a .782 OPS. Schwarber struggled mightily early in the season, which he opened as the team’s lead-off hitter. That experiment failed, and Schwarber’s troubles at the plate necessitated a trip to Triple-A Iowa in June.
Schwarber was a different hitter in the second half, batting .253 with an .894 OPS and posting marks of .178 and .694 in the first half. Of his 30 homers, 17 came after the All-Star break.
Schwarber, who turns 25 in March, also struggled in the postseason, going 3-of-17 in seven games.
“Personally, it wasn’t the season I wanted it to be,” said Schwarber, who was listed at 235 pounds last season. “It’s now a lifestyle change. There are things I want to improve on. I want to be healthier in general.”
What never wavered was Schwarber’s confidence in himself. Before leaving for Triple-A when he was demoted, Schwarber went up to his teammates and told each one he would come back a better player. He did just that.
Now, he hopes the weight loss will help take him to the next level and improve his defense too.
“This will give me more speed,” Schwarber said. “More speed on the bases and in the outfield. This is about working on mobility and all that it includes. I am just trying to best prepare myself for 162 games. I want myself ready for that grind.”
Schwarber probably won’t hit lead-off again for the Cubs but added he’d be fine if that’s what manager Joe Maddon asks of him.
“Wherever Joe wants me to hit,” Schwarber said. “This all starts with being selfless. We are all in this together. That’s where you go as a team player.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.