Whoever came up with the idea of calling up Kyle Schwarber (Wareham, 2012-13) from Double-A to serve as the Chicago Cubs’ designated hitter for five interleague games in American League ballparks should get a hefty boost in salary. Obviously, the guy's a genius.
Schwarber, the Wareham Gatemen’s 2012 playoff hero, has been tearing the cover off the ball since making his major league debut in Chicago on Tuesday.
The former Indiana University catcher and Chicago’s first-round draft pick (fourth overall) last June, is hitting .600 after his first 10 MLB at-bats. In his debut with the Cubs, he caught the ninth inning of a makeup game against Cleveland and took a called third strike in his only plate appearance. Perhaps a bit nervous, he gave no indication of what was to come.
Starting with Wednesday’s game in Cleveland, the 6-foot, 235-pounder has pounded out six hits, including a triple and a home run, while driving in four runs.
Schwarber’s first major league hit was an RBI triple off Indians right-hander Shaun Marcum (Harwich, 2002) in the second inning at Progressive Field. He followed with an RBI single in the third off lefty Nick Hagadone and stroked two more singles later in the game for a 4-for-5 debut as a major league DH. On Thursday, he hit his first MLB home run, a game-tying 381-foot opposite-field blast off Danny Salazar in the fifth inning with Chris Coghlan (Chatham, 2005) aboard. He also singled to right in the third.
With the two games in Cleveland now in the books, the Cubs head to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins starting tonight.
Regardless of how Schwarber fares this weekend, his next stop will be Des Moines, Iowa, where he’ll join the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. That will also be a promotion of sorts for the 22-year-old catcher because he has yet to appear at the Triple-A level. He reported to Chicago from Double-A Tennessee, where he was hitting .320 and leading the Smokies with 13 homers and 39 RBIs in 58 games.
He knew at the time he was called up that he would not remain with the Cubs after Sunday. But if he continues to pound the ball in Minnesota as he did in Cleveland, that decision to send him back down will become far more difficult than anyone could have anticipated. The problem is, the Cubs have made it clear they want Schwarber to remain behind the plate, but they admit he needs more work to hone his receiving skills. So the logical thing is to have him catch full time in the minors, rather than get spot starts behind Miguel Montero.
Could he remain in Chicago as an outfielder? He does have 36 games in left field under his belt, but that was at the end of last season in the low minors; he hasn’t ventured into the outfield at all this year. Learning on the job at the big league level obviously isn’t the way to go, so if the Cubs did want to convert Schwarber to an outfielder, the transition would have to take place in Iowa. At the moment, though, there’s no indication that will happen.
Of course, with the way he’s swung the bat in his short time at the big league level, the Cubs could decide they want him in Chicago on a more permanent basis sooner rather than later, thus dictating a move to the outfield as soon as he returns to the minor leagues.
Realistically, it appears he’ll be back in his usual role as catcher for the Iowa Cubs, counting the days until the September call-ups bring him back to Wrigley.