Schwarber off to strong start in 2018 for Cubs

Middletown High School grad playing two games in Cincinnati this week

Growing up in Middletown, Kyle Schwarber visited Great American Ball Park many times, but he never attended Opening Day in Cincinnati.

“I was always mad at my dad,” Schwarber said with a laugh. “He went a couple times, but would never take me out of school.”

It wasn’t quite Opening Day on Monday when the Cincinnati Reds played Schwarber and the Chicago Cubs, but Cincinnati did hold the Findlay Market Parade for the 99th time. It was held on Monday, as is tradition, instead of Thursday, when the Reds opened the season against the Washington Nationals.

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Schwarber hoped to have a big personal cheering section in the stands. Cubs fans always flock to Great American Ball Park, often outnumbering Reds fans. The presence of Schwarber certainly adds fans to the mix.

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“It’s a little bit chilly,” Schwarber said, “but it’s always good to get home and see family and friends.”

Schwarber hoped to continue a strong start to the 2018 season in the two-game series. He went 5-for-15 (.333) in four games in Miami, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs. That followed a spring that saw him hit .340 (18-for-53) with home runs in 21 games.

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Talking in the Cubs clubhouse at Great American Ball Park on Monday, Schwarber was more concerned with the team’s results. The Cubs went 2-2 against the Marlins.

“I think we wanted to come out there with a series win instead of a split,” Schwarber said. “It’s just four games. There are still 158 games left. I feel we have a really good group of guys in here. We’re just getting things going.”

Schwarber struggled early in 2017, his first full season back after the knee injury he suffered in the second game of the 2016 season. He hit .220 in April a year ago, .120 in May and .196 in June. The Cubs sent him to Triple-A on June 22, and he returned to the big leagues July 6.

Schwarber ended the season with 30 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .211 batting average. He devoted himself in the offseason to transforming his body for this season and earned a lot of headlines in spring training for his slimmer physique.

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Coming out of spring training, he said he felt good but knew the work didn’t guarantee him anything.

“I felt the preparation was a little bit different,” Schwarber said. “It’s not going to help me go out there and hit .500 or hit 400 home runs. I still have to go out there and perform on the field. Throughout the spring, I felt good, too. It’s just being able to continue that and keep that strong work.”

Even the early success in the first series didn’t get Schwarber too excited.

“It’s something you can’t really pay attention to — the results side,” he said. “You want to be really process based. That’s what I’m trying to be: take it a game at a time and go from there. Just worry about the at-bat at hand or being out in the field, everything like that. I’m not really focused on the overall. I’m just worried about that moment.”

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