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Cubs' Kyle Schwarber Embraces Work To Become Better Left Fielder

By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The final image of Kyle Schwarber's rookie season wasn't of a home run blasted to the Allegheny River or on top of the massive video board in Wrigley Field's right field.

Instead, it was of Schwarber unsuccessfully diving for a Wilmer Flores hit during the Mets' clincher over the Cubs in the NLCS -- Schwarber missed, and the series was all but over. So was the thought that Schwarber was a rookie playing a fairly new position.

During this offseason, Schwarber has worked hard to improve himself as an outfielder. He's done yoga and improved his flexibility, with the hopes of having "a more explosive first step." The Cubs will still have Schwarber dabble with a catching future, but he wants to become a better left fielder for 2016. After all, it could become the primary position in his big league career.

"The training is all a part of it," Schwarber said. "I love it."

Schwarber doesn't know what the blueprint will be for his role in 2016. The Cubs have catcher Miguel Montero locked into contract through 2017 and David Ross through this season, and the organization has had high praise for catching prospect Wilson Contreras in the minor leagues. Schwarber's place seems to be in left field for the near future.

During the Cubs Convention last weekend, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was asked if he would ever consider trading Schwarber. His simple reply: No.

Despite his defensive limitations last season, Schwarber's a staple for the Cubs' future. There's no reason to think otherwise. While his first step needs work to become more explosive, his bat has been known to launch bombs. In 2015, Schwarber's bat essentially forced Epstein to call him up from the minors and manager Joe Maddon to give him regular playing time.

"You can't really boast on your past," Schwarber said. "That's the way you get a big head, and that's not me. I'm this down-to-earth guy. I want to work hard, I want to bust my butt and I want to help this team win."

Schwarber hit .246 with 16 homers, 43 RBIs and an .842 OPS in 69 games with the Cubs last season. He posted a 1.9 WAR in that span, though was -3.4 in defensive win shares. He was a liability in left field, and now Schwarber hopes to change that perception.

The Cubs won 97 games and reached the NLCS last season, with Schwarber solidifying himself as an important piece for the present and future.

But as Schwarber said, you can't really boast on the past. He's ready for better in 2016.

"I feel like we're going to win the division," Schwarber said. "We showed what we can do when we're all in it for the common goal."

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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