Cubs beat Reds as Kyle Schwarber impresses -- behind the plate

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-6 in a Cactus League game on Tuesday. Here are some takeaways:

Kyle Schwarber: It’s not often his defense overshadows his performance at the plate, but Schwarber showed off his instincts behind the dish by twice throwing out a runner at first base.

“I feel more comfortable back there, putting in more work,” Schwarber said afterward. “It was a good day today.”

First, he got Jay Bruce in the second inning, then later, he caught Ray Chang napping.

“That was more spur of the moment,” Schwarber explained. “You pick a slider and see the guy is off a lot.”

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Schwarber will be Jason Hammel’s personal catcher, save perhaps when the Cubs are facing a tough lefty. The two have developed a nice rapport.

Cubs lineup: Joe Maddon had a regular-season-type lineup on the field on Tuesday and it paid off, as the top of the order simply kept the line moving. Dexter Fowler struck out three times on some questionable pitches, but in between, he doubled and scored on a wild pitch with a nice headfirst slide. Jason Heyward, batting second, reached on an error while Ben Zobrist had a hit, bringing the big boppers (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo) to the plate. Maddon likes the idea of his on-base guys hitting in front of his sluggers, and on Tuesday, it worked. Bryant came through with a bases-loaded single and then Rizzo later hit a two-run home run.

There was no let up for the opposition, perhaps a sign of things to come starting next month.

Injury updates: Maddon isn’t concerned about Tommy La Stella. The manager believes La Stella will be fully healed from a calf issue before the start of the regular season. La Stella ran the bases in practice Tuesday morning and was scheduled to play the field in the afternoon in a minor league game. He was previously hitting in minor league affairs without running to first base. La Stella has looked good at the plate despite the setback.

“Not getting at-bats here [with the big league team] with him is not a big issue,” Maddon said.

Shane Victorino is also nursing a sore calf, which has kept him off the field for several weeks now.

Roster decisions looming: There’s still time, but the Cubs will need to decide between keeping eight relievers or an extra bench player. That decision will dictate player movement, as guys like pitcher Neil Ramirez and outfielder Matt Szczur are out of options and can’t simply be sent to the minor leagues.

“We have to do it, [talk] more in earnest to try and figure out what we want to do,” Maddon said.

Up next: The Cubs take to the road again on Wednesday, when they play the Texas Rangers with Kyle Hendricks on the mound.