Whether Kyle Schwarber is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound by next spring, the Cubs already are preparing the next step for their sudden World Series cult hero for beyond the conclusion of this historic postseason.
Mostly, it involves rest. Then sometime around the key eight-month mark since his reconstructive knee surgery in April, he could join a winter league team to get some at-bats – and possibly some time in the field.
For Schwarber’s shocking, ahead-of-schedule return for the World Series, the Cubs still don’t seem much closer to knowing whether he will ever be able to catch again than they were at the time he was injured 6½ months ago.
“That certainly will be a question that we have to answer,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But I don’t think that’s one to answer yet.”
The breakthrough of rookie catcher Willson Contreras as a two-way force this year has influenced the Schwarber-catching narrative.
“A little bit. He’s been so good quicker than we thought,” Hoyer said of Contreras, who is projected to be next year’s starting catcher.
But the Cubs and the lefty slugging Schwarber have more urgent things on their minds – even after the Games 1 and 2 DH sensation was ruled out medically to play in the field this weekend.
“It was a huge injury, and that’s the facts,” said Schwarber, who’s available to pinch hit until a possible return to DH duty in potential Games 6 and 7 in Cleveland. “Not many people get this opportunity that I’m in right now, so I’m embracing it. I’m going to cheer my teammates on and when my time comes I’m going to be ready.”
Some glove for Javy
John Dewan and his Baseball Info Solutions, one of the leading creators of modern fielding metrics, listed two Cubs among its Fielding Bible Awards winners (recognizing the top fielders at each position in the majors).
First baseman Anthony Rizzo wasn’t necessarily a surprise; he’s also a finalist for an NL Gold Glove. But Javy Baez isn’t eligible for a Gold Glove because he wasn’t the primary starter at a single position.
Fielding Bible recognized Baez for its multi-position award – the third year it has recognized that utility spot in 11 years of the awards.
“That’s outstanding,” said manager Joe Maddon, who has long advocated a utility spot in All-Star voting and more recently as a Gold Glove position. “He absolutely deserves it. That’s great they’re creating that kind of recognition. That’s very forward thinking, and I love it.”
If the Cubs were going to employ a bat as potentially important as Schwarber’s in the World Series, they couldn’t have picked a better first year for it.
With the new clubhouse and hitting and workout facilities that were completed for the start of this season, Schwarber has every modern-day baseball convenience at his disposal to stay ready to pinch hit.
“It definitely will be a big deal,” he said. “Last year when I was pinch-hitting, we had the little small net that was in front of the TV [and a tee for hitting into the net]. But now that we have a cage, we can have a live arm in there, we can have flips off the machine, whatever we want.
“So I’ll definitely be warm when that time comes.”