By Bruce Levine–
(670 The Score) When Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber was telling his teammates goodbye last June, you weren’t sure when he would make it back on the team’s 25-man roster. Schwarber was en route to Triple-A Iowa, where he had a three-week journey to get back to Wrigley Field that was difficult to endure in the short term and changed his perspective in the long term.
Entering this 2018 season, the 24-year-old Schwarber has lost 25 or more pounds in the aftermath of a disappointing 2017 campaign. His arrow is once again pointing up after he changed his lifestyle and body while maintaining great focus on his goal of on-field success.
Schwarber hit .178 with a .694 OPS in the first half last season, necessitating his detour to Triple-A. After he returned in July, he hit .253 and had a robust .894 OPS the rest of the way. Schwarber made a point of using the entire field and did a better job of laying off the fastball up in the zone and changeup down in the zone.
“I just didn’t have the season I wanted to have,” Schwarber said. “I wanted to not leave any excuse out there (being too bulky). I tried to attack everything I could. That is how (weight loss) came up.”
Becoming the best player he can is all that’s on Schwarber’s mind, and he has no concerns about a loss of power. He hit 30 homers last season, including 17 in the second half.
“I don’t care if the ball goes 450 feet,” Schwarber said last week. “If I hit the ball correctly and on the screws, it will go out. More solid contact will take care of all of that.”
Schwarber will be working with new hitting coach Chili Davis on his plate discipline. His range as a defender has also improved with his weight loss, which was a tribute to his intense work ethic.
“You can see he is running and is moving better,” manager Joe Maddon said, noting Schwarber had two stolen bases in a spring training game.
“I just like his assertiveness on the bases in general. The idea he has had great secondary leads and that it was in his mind, to begin with, is what you appreciate. He hit a ball hard to left central that I liked. His at-bats and his eye-balling of pitches have looked really good. It’s just a couple of days in, but he looks fine.”
Schwarber has downplayed the weight loss as a big deal. He simply looked at it as part of his training and evolution.
“That will help a little bit and feels good out there,” Schwarber said. “This was controllable on my end, and now it helps me get going a little better.
“It feels good in the outfield. We have a great group of coaches with Wil Venable and Doug Dascenzo. I have worked with them on flexibility, what works and what doesn’t work. I just want to help the team win every day. That is my overall mindset. I want to get better with my all-around game. How to help the team win that day is my goal.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.