Tha Sports Junkies 101

Kyle Schwarber’s Incredible 2016 Journey

Arturo Pardavila III via


Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber meets the media before #WorldSeries Game 1.


On April 7 of the 2016 season, the Chicago Cubs were just starting the first of a 4 game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Kyle Schwarber started the game playing LF, and batting 6th. In his first PA in the top of the 2nd inning, he drew a BB off Diamondback starter Rubby De La Rosa. It would be the last PA he would make in the 2016 regular season. In the bottom half of the second inning, Jean Segura, of the Diamondbacks, stepped into the box against Cubs starter John Lackey. On a 3-1 pitch, Segura hammered a pitch into left center field as Schwarber and Dexter Fowler both gave chase on the ball. As they both closed in, Fowler went low, attempting to avoid contact with Schwarber, but to no avail, as Schwarber collided with Fowler as he attempted to field the ball.

At first sight, it was no question Schwarber was hurting, but the extent of the injury not only was not known immediately, but did not appear to be too serious. Then the cart came out to take him off the field. Never a good sign when a player is carted off the playing field, but at this point, the thought was Schwarber had suffered a badly sprained ankle. Definitely not good, but not something one would expect to keep him shelved for an extended period of time.

Then came the MRI on Schwarber’s knee. The diagnosis: Torn ACL(anterior cruciate ligament) and LCL(lateral collateral ligament). Prognosis: Out 6-9 months. He also suffered a sprain in his ankle, as was initially suspected, but nowhere near as serious as the ligament damage in his knee. Schwarber’s 2016 regular season was over and with a 6-9 month timetable for a return, no way he could come back in any capacity at any point for a potential Cubs playoff run. Right? Wrong. Many people, including myself, and rightfully so, saw no scenario where Schwarber would be able to return at any point during the 2016 season.

The immediate goal from the Cubs organization was Schwarber being able to return for the start of spring training in 2017. Dr. Rodney Brenner, a knee specialist from Indianapolis, stated while a return at the end of the regular season and postseason was not out of the question, everything would have to go absolutely perfectly for that to happen. On April 19, Schwarber underwent reconstructive surgery on his ACL and LCL. The surgery was performed by Dallas Cowboys head team physician, Dr. Daniel Cooper. Dr. Cooper is well renowned and considered one of the top orthopedic knee surgeons.

On Friday, June 17, Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, told members of the media that there was “no chance” of Schwarber playing again until 2017. While this really came as no surprise at this point, hearing those words straight form the horse’s mouth was disappointing to a lot of people. It was probably just as disappointing for Theo saying it as it was for all of us to hear it. By the first week of July, Schwarber was able to ditch the crutches he had been using to begin working on strengthening his knee. Then came the stretch run for Schwarber’s rehab process.

By the end of August, Schwarber began light jogging drills. Everything was going as planned, as far as the rehab process, and it was looking like he’d be 100% by the 2017 spring. Cubs fans everywhere were still holding out hope for a late season return, but the timetable was still spring, 2017. There was still “no chance” he would return at any point in 2016.

Prior to the Cubs heading to LA to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, Schwarber made a visit to the doctor for a checkup on his surgically repaired knee. The news he would receive was the best he, the Cubs organization, and the fans could have hoped for. The knee was strong again and he was officially medically cleared to return to baseball activities. Fantastic news, sure, but it did not give any sign of Schwarber being able to return for the World Series, should the Cubs be able to advance.

As we all know by now, the Cubs did in fact advance and are currently playing the Cleveland Indians in their first Fall Classic since 1945. On the day the Cubs closed out the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, behind a very skilful performance by starter Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs officially activated Schwarber off the DL and added him to the Mesa Solar Sox taxi squad roster in the Arizona Fall League. Very encouraging news, indeed, and it was going to be nice to see him get some reps and prepare for his imminent return for spring training in 2017. Then came the shocker.

Everyone expected Schwarber to fly to Cleveland following Monday’s fall league contest to join the Cubs. At the time of this news, there were questions about why(at least from me). Why would he join the team(if not playing) when he could stay in Arizona and continue to get his reps and strengthen his knee? There had been whispers among everyone that there was a possibility, based on how the knee felt, how Schwarber looked at the plate, etc. that he could be added to the WS roster. Wait? What? After such a horrific injury, and the continued reiteration from the organization that there was no possibility of any kind of return to the field before next spring, this wasn’t possible. Was it?

Theo Epstein and co. monitored the situation very closely and carefully. After seeing him in his Fall League appearances, the Cubs decided Schwarber was ready to join the team for the WS against the Cleveland Indians in a DH role. There was a little uncertainty, from myself, if Schwarber would be able to be an impactful bat after such a prolonged absence from seeing live big league pitching. He did see about 1,300 pitches from opposing fall league pitchers, coaches, and a pitching machine. Still, its hard to compare that to big league pitching, especially that nasty Andrew Miller slider. Not to take anything away from the young, talented pitchers in the fall league, but it’s just not the same.

Game 1 of this World Series would put any questions myself or anyone else had about Schwarber’s ability to step in and make an impact after the long lay off and grueling rehab, to rest. Corey Kluber absolutely carved through the Cubs lineup with a masterful performance in Game 1. Nasty stuff coupled with pinpoint control had the Cubs hitters off-balance and guessing all game. The Cubs recorded 4 hits off Kluber through the 6 innings he threw, one of which was a Schwarber double high off the wall that missed being a HR by about 3 feet. The Cubs as a whole, even with Kluber as good as he was, and the Cubs hitters not getting results, had some good at bats against him(even with all the strikeouts). The fact that Schwarber was able to put such good at bats up against a really good Corey Kluber was very impressive. But the most impressive was yet to come from him.

When Ben Zobrist lead off the Cubs 7th inning with a base hit, Terry Francona decided to go to the ALCS MVP in Andrew Miller. Miller has been absolutely devastating all season against everyone, especially LH batters. And since Schwarber burst onto the scene last season, with very good and productive numbers, he has not had great luck against LH pitching. He proceeded to work a full count against Miller and then took that nasty slider of his low to coax a walk. For him to not only put together the AB’s he did against Kluber and almost take him yard and then turn around and face arguably the best reliever in baseball and have that kind of plate appearance after being out for 6 months is almost unheard of and unfathomable. In Game 2, we would see much of the same from Schwarber. He would finish 2-4 with 2 RBI, one coming in the 3rd inning off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer on a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded.

Unfortunately, Schwarber was not medically cleared to play the outfield. He will be relegated to PH duties for the Cubs in games 3,4, and, 5 at Wrigley Field. While it would be a luxury to have his bat in the lineup for these upcoming games, the fact remains that not risking his future is the most important thing for him and the Cubs going forward. Furthermore, the Cubs are not without great options. They did win 103 regular season games and beat both the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers to get to the World Series without Schwarber’s bat. It also gives the Cubs a big LH bat off the bench in late innings. There’s no question he can still be a major factor in these next 3 games. For now, we should all just be thankful he was able to return and be a factor in the first two games. The very fact that Schwarber is even able to be on the field in any capacity is a testament to how hard he was worked to get back.

The legend of Kyle Schwarber is just beginning.