MIAMI – The Chicago Cubs are hoping a stint in the minors will help Kyle Schwarber find his swing again.
The 24-year-old Schwarber was sent down to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, giving the slumping slugger a chance to catch his breath after a difficult start to the season.
“We talked to him after the game yesterday and he took it really well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re doing it to help reset him and get him back to a fresh start. As you would expect he was very professional about it. He understood it entirely.”
The Cubs also placed outfielder Jason Heyward on the 10-day disabled list before their series opener at Miami. Outfielder Mark Zagunis and right-hander Dylan Floro were brought up from Chicago’s top farm club.
“When I get a chance to get in the lineup, just make the most of it,” said Zagunis, who is starting in right field against the Marlins on Thursday. “I’m not really worried about (when or if Schwarber is coming back) because I feel like when I start worrying about that I feel like there’s not a lot of good that can happen.”
Heyward has an abrasion on his left hand. His DL stint was made retroactive to Monday.
Schwarber made his major league debut in 2015 and hit .246 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 69 games. He missed most of last season with a leg injury after a frightening outfield collision, then returned in October to help the Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908.
But the No. 4 pick in the 2014 amateur draft has struggled so far this year. He is batting just .171 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs.
“At the end of the day you have to do what you think is best for him and then what’s best for him is going to be best for us,” Maddon said. “So we thought watching the whole thing unfold, talking to him, talking to (hitting coach) Johnny Mallee, that this will be the best plan for right now. Get him out, get him playing, away from here, let him relax a little bit, unwind a little bit, re-focus and reset.”
Schwarber began the year in the leadoff spot, but was pushed down in the lineup after the slow start. Nothing has worked so far. He has struck out 75 times in 64 games.
“It’s tough for the team because he’s such a good guy, a good person,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, “but he’s going to go down and be able to exhale a little bit as far as being in the limelight all of the time and hopefully smooth things out and we’re all confident he will do his best down there to get back up here and be the Kyle Schwarber we all know and love.”
Schwarber isn’t the only player from last year’s championship club who has underperformed so far this season. Chicago is 36-35 heading into the series against the Marlins.
“The biggest thing is just to realize where you are in life and there’s a lot more problems that you could be dealing with and I remind myself of that every day,” third baseman Kris Bryant said.
“If I go 0 for 4 and that’s my biggest problem of the day, then I’m doing just fine and I think (Schwarber) has that great attitude about himself and I think that’s going to get him a long way.”
To make room for Zagunis on the 40-man roster, reliever Zac Rosscup was designated for assignment.