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Cubs Plan To Keep Giving Kyle Schwarber Reps At Catcher, In Outfield In 2016

(CBS) After being swept out of the NLCS by the Mets on Wednesday night, the Cubs enter the offseason with the intention of continuing to develop rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber as both a catcher and outfielder when they report for spring training in 2016.

"The presumption as we look toward next year is that he'll continue to work as a catcher and probably get some playing time as a catcher and continue to develop and continue to learn but that he would also get a lot of at-bats in the outfield and put an an emphasis on keeping his potent bat in the lineup," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday at his season-ending press conference.

Schwarber, 22, was first called up by the Cubs in June, then returned for good in mid-July. He initially got some time at catcher, but as the Cubs made their postseason push and focused more on winning than experimenting, he was the team's regular left fielder. The team's first-round pick in 2014, Schwarber regularly played catcher at Indiana University.

Wherever he's been on the field, the plodding Schwarber has at times been a defensive liability -- including in the NLCS, when he misplayed a pair of fly balls in left field.

"This game takes a lot of turns, and we're not good enough to forecast exactly how his career is going to go defensively, what position he's going to play," Epstein said. "But I think keeping all the options open for as long as possible makes sense -- as long as we're not doing anything that gets in the way of his development, his ability to stay in the lineup and his long-term health. We'll have more specific conversations about that."

Schwarber hit .246 with 16 homers, 43 RBIs and an .842 OPS in 69 regular-season games. After Wednesday's season-ending loss, he indicated no preference for which position he wants to play in the future, saying he'll do whatever is best for the team.

Veteran catcher David Ross has one year left on his contract with Chicago. Regular starting catcher Miguel Montero is signed through 2017.

In addition to Schwarber, fellow youngsters Kris Bryant and Javier Baez can also play multiple positions for the Cubs. Bryant can play third base or the outfield, and Baez can play anywhere in the infield -- and, some believe, would make a fine outfielder too.

Epstein likes such versatility and doesn't feel a rush to make a decision, though he readily admitted improving the defense is a priority for the Cubs next season.

"We're going to continue to put a priority on versatility and having interchangeable parts and having redundancy with our position-player group," Epstein said. "Frankly, I think it's one of the strengths of the organization, that we have a lot of impact depth with our positions players and that those guys can play multiple positions. That allows you to withstand a key injury or two."

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