CLEVELAND – (Wire Service Report – Special to Digital Sports Desk) – No matter how many times his teammates said it, Kyle Schwarber had a hard time believing it. Through all the hours of rehab, all the months spent away from the field, the rest of the Chicago Cubs kept telling him he would be back for the World Series.
“I’d just laugh it off,” Schwarber said. “Then when it came to reality, it was a shock.”
Now it is Schwarber shocking people.
After missing more than six months recovering from the torn ACL he sustained on the second day of the season, Schwarber went 3-for-7 as the Cubs managed a split of the first two games of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He scorched a single to center in the third inning of Game 2 on Wednesday to score Anthony Rizzo from second base, then added another RBI single in the fifth to score Ben Zobrist and extend the Cubs’ lead to 4-0.
“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.”
Schwarber has reached base five times through the first two games of this series — not bad for a guy whose only rehab assignment came last weekend in the Arizona Fall League. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has spent 30 years in baseball, but can’t recall anyone doing what Schwarber has done.
“I’ve seen guys come back from injuries during the season, but they’ve gone through rehab and they didn’t have that severe of an injury to come back and play,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any real comp for it. I don’t. Nothing that I’ve seen.”
Maddon never counted on Schwarber coming back and insists it wasn’t even a viable option until the National League Championship Series when team doctors cleared him to hit without Maddon even asking about him. First, Schwarber hit in the batting cage of the visitor’s clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. Then the Cubs sent him to the AFL for a few games.
“I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t on my radar screen at all,” Maddon said. “I kept encouraging him for next year. We were not expecting him to be ready for the playoffs.”
Now that he is the hottest hitter in the Cubs’ lineup, the question remains how long he can stay in it. He was the designated hitter in Cleveland, but he would have to return to the outfield in order to keep playing when the series shifts to Wrigley Field on Friday.
Schwarber has not even tried playing the outfield yet, although Maddon left open the possibility he would take fly balls during Thursday’s workout. If doctors clear him, the Cubs’ lineup remains a little more dangerous.
Schwarber turned toward the Cubs’ dugout after his RBI single in the third and shouted while pumping his arms. Maddon believes it is working.
“He jacks everybody up,” Maddon said. “Those couple big hits he got, Rizzo really responded to it well. The whole group did. It makes your lineup longer. It makes it thicker. It makes it better. We knew what it would be like all year long. We didn’t have it. And now we’re going to have it in a short spurt right now. and it’s kind of fun. It’s a great weapon to have.”