After a quick recall from the Chicago Cubs, can Frank Schwindel get back on track to avoid a trip to the minors? – Chicago Tribune
SAN DIEGO — A nail in his car tire saved Frank Schwindel from an unnecessary trip to Iowa.
Schwindel arrived at Wrigley Field on Sunday and began to pull away ahead of the Chicago Cubs’ 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers when he learned he had been tapped for Triple A. The Cubs were hoping that move would allow the 30-year-old Schwindel to lock himself in and resume what made him successful for two stellar months to close out last season.
Schwindel would have made the six-hour drive Sunday to join the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines. However, he had discovered the nail in his tire en route to Wrigley for Sunday’s game. The auto shop he planned to use was no longer taking appointments for the day and all other options were closed, so Schwindel figured he would have the tire serviced on Monday morning and then drive to Des Moines.
Instead, he got a call late Sunday after the loss that the Cubs called him up for their trip to the West Coast. A Cubs fan spotted Schwindel on a Monday morning flight in San Diego. Others recognized him at the airport, prompting one to say to Schwindel, “Hope you’ll be back up there soon.”
“It was pretty funny,” Schwindel said Monday at Petco Park. “I took a few selfies. I told them, ‘Don’t say anything, I’m playing tonight.’ … It’s been a crazy 24 hours.
Schwindel started at first base and hit fifth against the Padres. He doesn’t lose his last minor league option as he hasn’t spent the minimum 20 days in the minors this season.
The Cubs were able to bring him back immediately with no minimum stints in the minors as he replaced right-hander David Robertson, who was on the injured list regardless of injury. Players can go to IL under these circumstances when it comes to COVID-19. Right-hander Marcus Stroman was scratched from his scheduled departure on Sunday and also placed on the IL for no reason.
The Cubs also opted for right-hander Adrian Sampson at Triple A and contract selected left-hander Conner Menez. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., infielder Ildemaro Vargas and wide receiver PJ Higgins are on the San Diego taxi and squad.
Schwindel admitted he wasn’t thrilled to be picked, but he understood why the Cubs did it.
“I mean, it made sense,” he said. “I didn’t live up to what I expected, what anyone else expects. But it happens. Even the best of hitters, it’s part of the game, to get through the tough times and get back on track and start doing things I’m good at and go from there.
“But this is just another chance to prove myself now.”
After missing time in spring training due to back pain, Schwindel struggled to get going. He had a .209/.250/.308 slash line coming in Monday with a 62 OPS+, five extra hits, 21 strikeouts and five walks. His strikeout rate was nearly 7% higher than a year ago, while his walk rate was down 1.5%.
“He’s played almost every game, and hitting the middle of our lineup, he knows what he’s capable of and we know what he’s capable of,” manager David Ross said Monday. “We have a lot of confidence and faith in him. The fact that we were going to send him back was for his (long term) good, probably not so much for us.
Three metrics highlight Schwindel’s struggles and contrast what made him so effective last year: strikeout rate, strike counts against fastballs and hard contacts.
“I think for me it takes a good game to take a deep breath and start from there,” Schwindel said. “I’ve had good swings lately, not so lucky. But I feel like I’ve built on better games in the last two games, at least in terms of feeling.
Schwindel became known last year for his ability to put the ball in play and limit strikeouts. He chained the hits and multiplied the contacts in the zone (contact rate of 87.8%). In 25 games this season, the contact rate in the Schwindel area had fallen to 82.8%.
When he puts the ball in play, his hard-kick percentage is down 12.2% from last year. Although he saw slightly more pitches per plate appearance, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was down from 2.25 in 2021 to 4.20.
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He also no longer feasts on fastballs. He hit .338 with a .685 hitting percentage in 2021 against fastballs, hitting 11 of his 13 home runs and 10 doubles. Schwindel sees the same percentage of fastballs this season but does no damage. He boasts a .244 average and .333 shot percentage while sniffing 27.6 percent of the time against fastballs.
All of these shortcomings have contributed to Schwindel’s offensive woes.
“It’s just getting back to not missing my shots and swinging the strikes in the zone,” he said, “which kind of saved me from trying to chase hits and trying to make things happen instead of letting the pitches come to me, but that’s all part of the learning process.
“Which comes first, hits or confidence? That’s a tough question to answer. It’s just hard to step back and try not to chase hits, to chase hits. lands outside the area to try and get a guy in.
Schwindel could give the Cubs pause if he starts to get on the right track while Stroman and Robertson are sidelined. There may not be enough time to change the organization’s mind about the overall benefit of kicking it in a less stressful environment.
Ross didn’t want to predict what would happen with Schwindel when those future roster decisions have to be made.
“Sometimes those little moments and the way things work out is funny,” Ross said. “He could carry us next week and he’s not going anywhere. … I know one thing about Frank, he’s going to give his best in whatever we ask him to do.