How Frank Schwindel became the player Cubs fans dread to see on the mound

The Cubs gave Frank Schwindel a rest day Thursday, after his third relief outing of the season.

OK, it was probably more because the first baseman had been in the starting lineup for eight straight games, a grueling stretch for the Cubs amid a losing streak. But at least Thursday morning, as the team was trying to put that abysmal stretch and a 19-5 loss to the Padres behind them, Schwindel was game to play along with the pitcher-interview bit.

“I mixed in a four-pitch mix yesterday, plus and minus speeds,” Schwindel deadpanned, “but, I don’t know, they’ve just been all over me.”

Schwindel has become the Cubs’ go-to position player to take the mound in blowout losses. And he’s had plenty of opportunities lately. He finished two of the Cubs’ last four games, while de-facto closer David Robertson hasn’t appeared since last Friday.

It’s a unique position for Schwindel to be in. He’s helped provide an offensive boost against the Padres this series, going 4-for-12 in the first three games. But on Wednesday, Schwindel was also the pitcher no one wanted to see on the mound.

“It was fun the first time,” Schwindel said, “But now – nobody likes getting beat like that – so, it’s like, ‘Alright, here we go,’ and then try to get out of it as soon as possible and get the guys off the field.”

The story of how Schwindel became the Cubs’ regular position-player pitcher starts in Cincinnati, a week before his first relief appearance.

The Reds were pummeling the Cubs on the last day of a four-game set. It was time to cut their losses and at least save the bullpen from unnecessary wear and tear.

Originally, Schwindel said, they were considering putting catcher P.J. Higgins on the mound and Schwindel, the Cubs’ emergency catcher, behind the plate.

“I’ll just pitch if you want me to,” Schwindel remembers offering.

In the end, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who reached 10 years of service time that day, got to celebrate the milestone with his first chance on the mound.

Simmons, it turns out, is a much better shortstop than pitcher. He allowed five runs in his one inning on the bump. So, Schwindel was next in line for the Cubs’ next blowout loss. And the next. And the next.

“I got some good hitters out though,” said Schwindel, ever the optimist. “[Padres star Manny] Machado’s going to be a Hall of Famer. Got him out. [Yankees slugger Giancarlo] Stanton the other day.”

But that first career strikeout has been elusive.

“I had two two-strike counts,” Schwindel said, “couldn’t execute.”

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