Cubs slugger makes Fall League debut as DH for Mesa
By Carrie Muskat
CHICAGO -- On Monday, Kyle Schwarber went to Dallas for the six-month checkup on his left knee, which was injured in the third game of the regular season. Both he and the Cubs were surprised when he got the go-ahead to play games, and he could be on the roster for the World Series.
Schwarber played for the Mesa Solar Sox on Saturday night in Arizona, and he monitored the Cubs' 5-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on an iPad in the dugout. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, and his Arizona Fall League teammates sprayed him with champagne in the clubhouse so he could be part of the celebration in Chicago. The Cubs are going to the World Series. Schwarber may be going, too.
"It's well deserved," Schwarber said. "I can't be happier for those guys. Those guys went about their business. We've got everything rolling over there. We've got the clubhouse, we've got the players, we've got the pitching, we've got the offense, we've got the defense. So if we keep rolling, keep playing our game, we'll be just fine.
"Those guys deserve it. I'm down here trying to get my work in, and I'm going to join them up in Cleveland; it's either cheering or whatever it is, I'm all in for it."
Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, said the organization is keeping an open mind about Schwarber's potential availability for the Series.
"He's a pretty special person; a special hitter," Epstein said prior to Saturday's game. "I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but if it does get to the point where we think he can help us [in the World Series], it says a lot about his talent and his work ethic."
Schwarber, who tore both the ACL and the LCL in his knee, will be wearing a brace.
"We'll see where this goes," Epstein said. "We're not ruling anything in, we're not ruling anything out. We're not getting ahead of ourselves.
"It's a testament to how hard Kyle has worked to be in this position, and [it's] a credit to him and all the members of the medical staff. He's put his head down and quietly gone about his business to come back."
Though Schwarber couldn't be with the Cubs to celebrate their NL pennant, those with him in Arizona made sure he had a chance to celebrate, spraying him with champagne in a video posted to Twitter by Cubs scout Spike Lundberg.
Late Monday, Schwarber joined the Cubs in Los Angeles for the NLCS, and he hit in the batting cage at Dodger Stadium. He hit again on Tuesday, then traveled to Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday to work out at the Cubs' complex.
On Thursday, Schwarber took batting practice on the field in Mesa, hitting 400 to 500 balls off the hitting machine. On Friday, he took batting practice and faced right-handed pitcher James Farris, who is playing in the AFL.
The only problems have been blisters from all the hitting, Epstein said. The Cubs' medical staff will keep a close eye on Schwarber.
"He looks really good," Epstein said of the reports so far. "He's running well, he's running the bases. He's cut and changed directions. We'll evaluate from a medical standpoint and make sure there's no soreness. From a baseball standpoint, typically guys need much longer to get their timing down to get ready, but I wouldn't put anything past Kyle."
Schwarber, 23, made his first Major League start against the Indians at Progressive Field as a DH on June 17, 2015, and he went 4-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs. He served as the Cubs' DH during a five-game road Interleague stint that month and returned to the Minors before joining the team for good in mid-July, hitting .246 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 69 games.
Epstein said they were expecting the six-month checkup to simply be a progress report, not the chance to add another slugger to the lineup.
"We got news that was better than we could've expected," Epstein said. "With as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him and potentially to us, we wanted to give him the opportunity.
"He's so passionate about baseball and his teammates and an incredibly hard worker, and he's been working his tail off and managed to stay part of the team," Epstein said. "Physically, he's on an accelerated timetable. Mentally, he's been preparing this for six months: he's been doing advanced scouting, he's watched how pitchers attack hitters, studying video, opposing pitchers' video. He's such a great kid, he's got every teammate rooting for him. Just the fact that he's gotten to this point is a testament to his character. No matter what happens, we're proud of him."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.