Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber: Return to scene of knee injury just another game

PHOENIX – Kyle Schwarber was ready for the question Friday when he returned to the scene of the crash for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury last season.

“Any ball hit out to left-center, I’m just going to sit down,” the left fielder said with a laugh.

Nobody was laughing the last time the Cubs played a series at Chase Field in Phoenix, not after Schwarber was carted off the field three games into the season after colliding with center fielder Dexter Fowler.

He was in left field again Friday for the opener of a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.

Kyle Schwarber is taken off the field during the second inning of the Cubs' game against the Diamondbacks on April 7 last year. He missed the rest of the season. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“I’m sure there’ll be thoughts running, but overall I’m not too worried about it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going to go out there and cry. It’s not going to affect how I play. I’m not going to go crazy or anything like that.”

Besides, he has more important things to think about these days, entering Friday’s game as a .193 hitter who rarely starts against left-handers.

The Cubs’ two-time postseason hitting hero has shown some improvement at the plate since a two-week demotion to the minors before the All-Star break, but his strikeout rate has actually jumped since then, too.

He said he’s feeling better at the plate these days and remains “confident,” but he’s also aware of the strikeouts.

“I don’t want to be known as the guy who’s going to go up there and punch out 200 times; I want to be known as a good hitter,” he said. “You’ve got to find a way to cut those down, but you can’t let them effect you during the game or anything like that.”

Manager Joe Maddon has occasionally suggested that Schwarber’s struggles this year trace back to coming off the knee injury and all the missed time.

Schwarber, who calls his knee brace a daily reminder of last year’s outfield crash, doesn’t buy it.

“Whatever I’ve gone through this year and since I came back, it’s just a big learning process,” Schwarber said dismissing any cause-and-effect relationship to the injury. “I’ve learned a lot about baseball and it’s all positive stuff.”

Russell update: Injured shortstop Addison Russell (foot strain) hit in a batting cage and did “very light” running back home in Chicago on Friday. Russell, who hurt his foot trying out a new pair of baseball shoes in practice, has made slow progress. He’s eligible to return from the DL Sunday but might not be back for another week or more.

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Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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