Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber has defensive improvement on his mind

CHICAGO -- After being eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Mets this past October, the Chicago Cubs front office reminded people that the end of the season can sometimes -- wrongly -- be the snapshot for the entire year. The loss to the Mets was ugly, but the entirety of the season was not.

This especially applies to individual players, including outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber. His defense in left field in the National League Championship Series wasn’t good, but leading up to that series no one was declaring him a big weak link in the outfield. However, his lack of experience out there did expose him in those crucial four games.

Months later, Schwarber vows to be better.

“More explosive first step,” Schwarber said Wednesday night as part of manager Joe Maddon’s "Thanksmas" event to feed the homeless in Chicago. “I’ve been doing yoga. (I want) to be more flexible. Take efficient routes.”

Remember, Schwarber is still working behind the plate as well. He actually struggled more at catcher than in the outfield last season. He made four errors and threw out just three of 17 base stealers. His task this spring will be tough: improve at two positions.

“I want to find a way to mix in both,” Schwarber said. “The training is all part of it. I love it. I’ll spend one day on both positions.”

He’s already working on it, working out with catching coach Mike Borzello in Tampa Bay this winter. Defense might be a work in progress, but the man dubbed "Bam Bam" by his hitting coach had very few issues at the plate in 2015. He burst onto the major league scene last season with a powerful swing that produced 16 home runs in 69 regular-season games, plus five more in nine playoff games. He quickly became the franchise postseason leader in that category.

“I feel like I want to be more consistent at the plate,” Schwarber said. “Whatever it takes.”

"Whatever it takes" is a pretty good way to describe the Ohio native. His team-first attitude resonated right away in the Cubs' clubhouse last season, and it probably won’t be long before he’s one of the young leaders of the team. As for that ball he famously hit onto the right-field scoreboard in the postseason last year, he’s not sure what the plan for it is -- but he’d like it back if possible.

“I haven’t heard about it yet,” he said, smiling. “I haven’t been consulted on it yet.”

After a whirlwind rookie half-season Schwarber is more comfortable in his surroundings. He says he didn’t look back at the semi-legendary status he created for himself over the course of his first few months in the big leagues. He’s only looking forward: finishing what the Cubs started as a team last season and trying to erase those defensive woes that popped up in the final four games.

“Just try to soak in as much knowledge as I can from our outfielders,” Schwarber said. “Always trying to improve my game.”