Kyle Schwarber is settling into a groove in Cubs system

Kyle Schwarber is settling into a groove in Cubs system
June 20, 2014, 12:00 am
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Tony Andracki

GENEVA, Ill. -- Kyle Schwarber is feeling comfortable right now.

As if his 12 hits in his first five professional games wasn't proof enough, Schwarber made a seamless transition to Class-A Kane County, making his debut with the Cougars Thursday night some 40 miles west of Wrigley Field.

Schwarber picked a nice game to debut, facing Aaron Slegers, his former college teammate who got the start for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Schwarber caught Slegers, a fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2013, at Indiana last spring.

[RELATED - Cubs aren't giving up on Kyle Schwarber catching]

Exactly two weeks after the Cubs made him the fourth overall pick, Schwarber went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and scored a run in a rain-shortened 7-0 Cougars win.

In his first at-bat, he drove a 2-2 pitch to center and thought he had crushed another homer (he hit four in five games with Boise), but the ball stayed in the park, falling just shy of the warning track.

"I feel really good at the plate. I feel like I'm seeing it well," Schwarber said. "You're gonna go through these stretches where you see the ball really well and then [stretches] where you don't see it well.

"Even though it was a debut, you just gotta stick with your approach and do what you do."

It's Schwarber's approach that turned heads during his first day with Kane County.

[RELATED: Cubs fans get a close-up look at Schwarber: "Dude can hit"]

"He looked good," Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. "For the first time I've seen him play, he's got a hell of an approach at the plate. He knows what he's doing and he's really direct to the ball.

"It looks like he's very mature at the plate. He has a good idea. Just watching him, how he takes pitches and how he attacks certain pitches. He goes up there with a plan and sticks with it."

Even before he got into the game, Schwarber had Cougars personnel raving.

"I'm excited he's here," Kane County hitting coach Tom Beyers said. "With where he was drafted and the year he had in college, he definitely deserves to be here.

"I was very impressed with him in his early routine. He has his own routine, which is good to see. The way he took BP (batting practice), the way he used the whole field, everything looks really good."

Schwarber isn't getting caught up in all the hype, but admits it has been a wild ride the last couple weeks.

"Going from playing at Indiana, losing on a walk-off home run to getting drafted by the Cubs, going to Chicago to get the physical done and flying out that next day to go to Boise and play and spend a couple days in Boise and I'm here now," he said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I couldn't be more grateful."

The 21-year-old catcher/outfielder wasn't initially projected to go as high as the Cubs with the fourth pick in the draft, but he agreed to a below-slot deal ($3.125 million) and was playing for short-season Boise roughly a week after being drafted. With such little time off between college and the pros, Schwarber attributes that with his hot start.

"I was really excited to sign quick and get out there and start playing baseball," he said. "I wanted to make it quick because baseball is what I love and that's what I wanted to do.

"We wanted to make an emphasis on getting out there and starting early and getting some experience."

Schwarber is in Cubs Country now, with Chicago fans packing Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Ill, itching to see the next big thing. He plans on keeping his even-keeled approach, citing Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto - a quiet, thoughtful star who lets his play do the talking - as his idol.

[MORE: What the Cubs need to see from Kris Bryant in Iowa]

Schwarber doesn't have to worry about classes anymore and can focus strictly on baseball. He's tuning out all the prospect rankings and admits he won't stop daydreaming about playing in the big leagues one day.

"It's baseball. It's the game I've been playing for years," Schwarber said. "They told me when I signed, 'Go out there, have fun and play baseball. We'll take care of the rest.' And that's what I'm gonna do."

Six games in, it looks like he's done just that.

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