Schwarber, Cubs OFs getting feel for ranges

Slugger looking to avoid repeat of collision that cost him 2016 regular season

Schwarber, Cubs OFs getting feel for ranges

MESA, Ariz. -- If it seems Kyle Schwarber is trying to catch every ball hit his way in the outfield, it's because he is. That's part of the reason he crashed into Dexter Fowler last April.

"It's fun out there," Schwarber said about playing the outfield, not colliding with teammates. "That's part of the game -- you're in the outfield and you want to catch every ball that's near you. That's why I got hit last year. We were running after the ball, and we didn't think anyone was going to get it."

Schwarber and Fowler collided last April 7, resulting in two torn ligaments in Schwarber's left knee, which kept him out for the entire regular season. He's back this year and projected as the Cubs' leadoff man, playing left field. Do center fielders Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay need to get out of his way?

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"It's a big body to try to stop," Schwarber said laughing, "but if they're going to call for the ball, trust me, I'm going to let them take it. They're the center fielders, they have priority."

Schwarber's two-run triple

Spring Training is the perfect opportunity for the outfielders to learn each other's "I got it" yells.

"He's just like any other outfielder out there," Almora said. "We communicate the same, whether it's anybody, me, Jay, [Jason] Heyward or Schwarber. We're trying to move every pitch to be in the right spot for everybody. He can hold his ground. We're confident in that."

Jay said he's run into other outfielders in the past, but nothing resulted in the type of season-ending injury Schwarber had. Being with a new team requires a little more work.

"We're trying to get a feel for each other's ranges," Jay said. "The big thing is going out there and communicating. If I'm playing on one side of second base, I just have to let him know where I'm at, and vice versa. We just have to be aware of where we're at."

Schwarber on leading off

With Schwarber's new role as the leadoff man, manager Joe Maddon has to come up with a new saying. Before every one of Fowler's at-bats, Maddon would say, "You go, we go."

"He says he wants something to do with my eyes," Schwarber said of Maddon. "We're trying to figure out the saying. I'm not trying to figure it out, he's trying to figure it out.

"I guess he wanted to change it up from 'You go, we go.' That's Dexter. We wanted to change it up," Schwarber said. "I'm just going to let him do his thing. He says he likes the way I look at the pitcher. We're going to go from there. I'm in on it."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.