By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — The Cubs could have easily told third-year pro Kyle Schwarber that he was a full-time outfielder coming into spring training, but returning from a year of rehab on his surgically repaired left knee, Schwarber is primarily and outfielder while also being looked upon as the team’s third catcher.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Wind Chill Advisory In Effect, Wind Chills Dropping Well Below Zero
At least for now, Schwarber has the blessing of the medical staff and front office to continue as a catcher on a limited basis, starting with work once a week behind the plate. The front office knows the emotional Schwarber has always viewed himself as a catcher.
“When he goes to bed at night, he is a catcher,” general manager Jed Hoyer said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score. “We are going to give him reps a couple of times a week. That is what we love about him. He believes he is a catcher and wants to do advance reports and have that communication with the pitcher. I don’t think you can ever take that away from him. We are doing the best we can to keep him healthy. We will bring it along slowly. We have two good catchers on our team. We will take it pretty slow with Kyle and his catching.”
Schwarber, who turns 24 in March, has embraced the situation and is prepared to be an outfielder first before assuming catching duties. During the last week, he slowly returned to some catching drills, including catching a side session from right-hander John Lackey on Saturday.
“It was nice to be back there,” Schwarber said. “I haven’t been behind the plate in almost 12 months. It was fun to challenge yourself. It was cool.”READ MORE: View Live Radar
The fact that Schwarber has only 278 plate appearances in the big leagues has been lost in the World Series hysteria of last season. His Ruthian explosion on the scene in mid-2015 and his triumphant return to the 2016 World Series after his severe knee injury makes his story unique and has given him near-icon status, despite having played just several months in the big leagues.
For now, Schwarber will concentrate on his new style of catching, marked by his left leg being extended.
“That was the way I caught before with the other leg out,” Schwarber said. “It’s just a little adjustment. Knowing me, you know I want to do more. You obviously have to take it slow with the knee and injury. My role right now is basically as the third catcher. I have to be ready any time to come in late in a game. It is not like I am going to be the everyday starter. For me to be prepared just to do that, I must do at least some work. I have to see some pitches and get my eyes retrained again.”
The side with Lackey was a good experience for Schwarber.
“Lackey is a high-energy guy,” Schwarber said. “It is always cool to catch him. You want to go back there and challenge yourself with something. It was a fun overall session.”MORE NEWS: Many Chicago Area Schools To Close Or Go Remote Wednesday Due To Extreme Cold
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.