Cubs' Schwarber to continue comeback as pinch-hitter in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Cubs won 103 games during the regular season, but as they were storming through the league en route to the best record in baseball, David Ross had a recurring thought that cropped up from time to time.

“‘Imagine a full season with Kyle Schwarber,'” Ross would ponder. “That was before all this was happening. If we’d have had Kyle Schwarber in left, who knows what would have happened?”

“This,” of course, is the World Series, which resumes with Game 3 Friday night at Wrigley Field.

Schwarber, the Cubs’ 23-year-old slugger, missed the final 159 games of the season after suffering a torn left ACL on April 7 before making the most unlikeliest of comebacks, returning for the World Series.

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Schwarber has come back with a vengeance, going 3-for-7 with two walks and two RBI in the first two games of the Fall Classic in one of the most remarkable feats we’ve ever seen.

Who does this?

“The ‘Legend of Kyle Schwarber’ is who does this,” Ross said. “This guy is a legend already.”

That Schwarber — who has played just 71 career regular-season games — didn’t see live pitching until a two-game tune-up in the Arizona Fall League last week tells you what a talent he truly is.

Cubs’ Schwarber, out since April, will DH in World Series Game 1

Kyle Schwarber hasn't been cleared to take the field, but his bat still makes him a major threat for the Cubs.

Kyle Schwarber hasn’t been cleared to take the field, but his bat still makes him a major threat for the Cubs.

(David J. Phillip/AP)

“I’m just trying to put in team at-bats right now,” said Schwarber, who will be limited to pinch-hitting duties the next three games after doctors did not clear him to lay the outfield. “I want to help this team get to the ultimate goal. That’s why I did all of this — was for these guys in the clubhouse and for our organization. It wasn’t for me.”

For most players, a season-ending knee reconstruction typically means a plane ticket home, where they rehab with an eye on being ready for spring training. Schwarber isn’t most players.

He spent the entire season with the Cubs, doing his part to help his teammates despite his inactive status. Every day Ross came to Wrigley, he walked into the clubhouse and saw the same thing: a sweaty Schwarber in the weight room.

“He’s a baseball rat,” Ross said. “Anybody that has been around this game for a long time, most guys would check out, go home, rehab, play with the kids and go get ’em next year. Mentally, he’s been competing in his mind for a long time with us.”

Kyle Schwarber’s return to Cubs’ lineup was improbable journey

For Schwarber, it was never a question, though even he wasn’t sure whether the hard work would be enough to get him back before 2017.

“I just took it day-by-day; I wanted to dominate the day,” Schwarber said. “It was just constant grind. There were days I just wasn’t feeling it. My teammates picked me up and I had some guys come over and say to me, ‘World Series, you’re going to be back,’ things like that. I’d just laugh it off. Then when it came to reality, it was a shock.”

Not that the Cubs needed any more motivation, but seeing Schwarber return for the World Series — let alone be one of their best hitters — seems to have inspired his teammates.

Schwarber had a long recovery period before returning for Game 1 of the World Series.

Schwarber had a long recovery period before returning for Game 1 of the World Series.

(David Banks/Getty Images)

“It’s crazy, man; it really is,” Ben Zobrist said. “Just having him in the lineup is a morale boost, but to see him not only have quality at-bats against tough pitching but to actually get some big hits, some RBIs for us, he’s just a stud.”

Read his lips: What did Kyle Schwarber say to Cubs teammates?

In Game 1, Schwarber missed hitting a home run against Corey Kluber by a few feet, slamming a double off the right-field wall in the fourth inning, then drew a walk against all-world reliever Andrew Miller three frames later.

On Wednesday night, Schwarber hit a 3-0 pitch from Trevor Bauer for an RBI single in the third, adding another RBI hit against Bryan Shaw in the fifth to give the Cubs a three-run lead.

“The story is that it’s just absolutely remarkable what he did over those first two games, given the fact that he’d only seen live pitching for four days,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “We didn’t expect him to be at this point. He went out there against some of the best pitching in the world and had incredible at-bat after incredible at-bat, got on base and drove in runs and helped us win a big ballgame.

“I’m in awe of what he did, and really excited about what he’s going to continue to do to impact the series.”

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There might have been some disappointment that he wasn’t cleared to play the outfield, but Schwarber is thrilled to be a part of things in the first place.

“Hey, man, I’m living the dream,” Schwarber said. “We’re playing in the World Series, what else can you ask for? I’m just going to keep riding the wave till it ends.”

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mlb
mlb playoffs
world series
chicago cubs
kyle schwarber

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