The Chicago Cubs have two catchers and one “emergency” catcher. It would be wise for the Cubs to use their emergency catcher just a little bit more.
Let’s face it. Everyone wants to see Kyle Schwarber catch. He’s quickly become a fan favorite despite playing just 98 games at the big-league level. However, because of his torn ACL last year, the Chicago Cubs have taken it slow on his knees. While no Cubs fan is arguing with that, it might be time for the Cubs to give him just a little more time behind the plate.
What position would the Cubs be in if Miguel Montero or Willson Contreras went on the disabled list? Obviously, Schwarber would get an increased role behind the plate but would he be ready for it? I am not so sure.
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Since returning from the torn ACL injury, Schwarber has caught a grand total of two games behind the plate. He caught a few innings in a spring training game and a few innings in Monday’s 10-2 blowout. Monday was the first time since 2015 that Schwarber was behind the plate in regular season action. That is not enough. There are ways to get him into the game more.
A late-inning replacement
Clearly, the Cubs have no problem pulling Schwarber late in games for defensive purposes. Why not put him behind the plate then, especially in games when Montero catches? Yes, Contreras is the best defensive catcher the Cubs have, but an inning or two of Schwarber can’t hurt that much.
This would allow Schwarber to get some work with some of the relievers. If the Cubs start getting back to 2016 form, they could be winning a lot of games by larger margins. The risk of putting him behind the plate because significantly decreased. No one knows for sure if he is working on his catching during practices or bullpen sessions. My guess is he is in at least some capacity.
Injury risk the biggest question
Of course, the biggest concern is how his knees will hold up. Schwarber has not had any problems since the injury. At this point, I think increasing his workload would be fine.
After all, the chance that one of the two Cubs catchers lands on the disabled list is actually pretty high. While Contreras may remain healthy, Montero probably won’t. He’s been on the DL a few times over the last few years and I am sure his back will flare up again. He’s an aging veteran and with a new 10-day DL, it makes it easier to put a player on the disabled list.
Even during Thursday’s game, Len and JD commented that Montero might have got a little banged up on a play. If Montero was to hit the disabled list, I am not sure that Schwarber would be ready to resume catching on a more frequent basis. He has barely caught or worked with any of the pitchers.
It would be wise for the Cubs to continue to find some situations in which they get him behind the plate. Then, try to work him into a start every so often. It doesn’t even have to be once a week, but it should definitely be more than a few innings in the first 28 games. With Montero gone next season, there’s a good chance Schwarber could move into the “backup” role next season.