Marcus Stroman heaps high praise on Frank Schwindel and Seiya Suzuki
MESA, Ariz. — When Marcus Stroman signed with the Cubs just before the lockout began in December, he talked about how excited he was to pitch at Wrigley Field in front of the passionate fanbase.
But he is also anxious to get to know a couple of the Cubs hitters and pick their brains.
Stroman is a self-described thinker who is always talking the game and obsessed with finding any way to improve. He said he spends hours in the mirror at home working on his mechanics and even thinks about his delivery when he’s eating.
Instead of always talking with pitchers, Stroman’s process includes getting inside the heads of the offensive players.
In fact, it was talking to hitters that helped Stroman add the little hitch in his delivery that messes with opponent’s timing at the plate.
“I’ve learned from a ton of hitters — Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Josh Donaldson,” said Stroman, who played with all of those stars in Toronto. “I used to sit with all those guys in the cage and just learn.
“They preached to me that timing was the biggest thing that threw them off. I’m all for messing with timing. It just makes it that much harder on the hitter.”
Stroman is hoping to carry that over to his time with the Cubs. He’s only been with the team for a few weeks, so he’s still getting used to everything and has spent most of his time focusing on getting ready for the season.
Sunday represented a big step in that direction, as Stroman pitched against a group of his teammates in the simulated game at Sloan Park.
When asked about how he plans to learn from the Cubs’ hitters, he called out Frank Schwindel’s name unprompted.
“I honestly spend more time learning from hitters than I do from pitchers,” Stroman said. “My whole career — I’ve always been someone who has gone to the cages and picked hitters’ brains. Why would you not want to pick hitters’ brains? They’re the guys who are actually facing the best, most elite pitching in the world every day.
“Frank’s somebody I’ll continue to ask questions to. I think he’s an unbelievable hitter. His ability to barrel the ball — I just want to know his thought process, what he’s thinking in certain counts. Being able to throw ideas off of each other, that’s how you learn and that’s how you take your game to the next level.”
Schwindel is the reigning National League Rookie of the Month and actually took home the award in both August and September last year. He was a revelation with the Cubs after the trade deadline, making the absolute most of his opportunity to play down the stretch.
The 29-year-old first baseman hit .342 with a 1.002 OPS over 239 plate appearances, smacking 33 extra-base hits and driving in 40 runs in 56 games.
Against Stroman Sunday, Schwindel flew out and grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Stroman also faced Japanese rookie Seiya Suzuki. The veteran pitcher struck out Suzuki twice throughout the sim game but the outfielder still left a lasting impression.
Suzuki whiffed on 3 pitches the first time but in his final at-bat, he forced Stroman to throw 9 pitches. He fouled off pitch after pitch and worked from an 0-2 count to a 3-2 before ultimately striking out.
Suzuki has a pair of homers in Cactus League play this spring, including in Saturday’s game. He also hit a ringing double off Cubs pitcher Justin Steele as part of the sim game Sunday.
“He can rake, man,” Stroman said. “He’s got a great approach. He’s got a lot of power. He’s someone where you can’t make mistakes. As pitchers, we make mistakes. He’s one of those guys who’s not gonna miss and he’s gonna do damage in the zone.
“I was definitely being careful facing him today. You don’t want to leave anything up, you don’t want to leave anything in the zone because he’ll make you pay for it.
“He stands kind of all over the plate but he sees the ball out of hand and he has a good discipline as far as shutting it down early or saying, ‘alright, I’m gonna take a really good, aggressive swing in this count.’ You could tell he’s very, very polished. I’m excited to just watch what he can do this year.”
That’s something Stroman and Cubs fans have in common entering the 2022 regular season.