Could Kyle Schwarber force the World Series issue and start for Cubs in Wrigley outfield?

Could Kyle Schwarber force the World Series issue and start for Cubs in Wrigley outfield?

CLEVELAND – Within roughly 24 hours, Kyle Schwarber went from dismissing the possibility of being ready to play the outfield to saying: “We’ll see where it goes. Nothing’s set in stone.”

The momentum constantly shifts back and forth during October baseball and the Cubs felt another dramatic mood swing when Wednesday night’s 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians gave the franchise its first World Series win in 71 years. The spin coming out of the Progressive Field interview room sure made it sound like the must-see video footage from Thursday’s workout at Wrigley Field will be Schwarber tracking flyballs.

“I honestly don’t know,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s something I’m waiting to hear from our guys, from our medical side, because obviously he looks good. He looks good at the plate. Running the bases he looks pretty good so far.

“There’s nothing about watching him that tells me that he’s inhibited right now.”

Schwarber’s shown no rust for someone who hadn’t seen big-league action in more than six months. Hitting with a brace wrapped around his surgically repaired left knee, Schwarber blasted a double off Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and split his matchups against nasty lefty reliever Andrew Miller (walk/strikeout) during Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss in Game 1.

Schwarber gave the Cubs another jolt in Game 2, going 2-for-4 with a walk and driving in two runs. After knocking a two-out RBI single up the middle off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer in the third inning, Schwarber pumped his fists, pointed at his dugout and yelled out some, uh, locker-room talk.

The Cubs clearly felt an emotional lift with Schwarber in their lineup as the designated hitter, an option that will be taken away when the World Series shifts to Wrigley Field for Games 3, 4 and 5.

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“I just want to keep an open mind,” Maddon said. “But I could keep as open of a mind as I possibly can – it’s up to the doctors to say what he can and cannot do.”

Schwarber keeps smashing all expectations, returning from a gruesome outfield collision that was supposed to keep him sidelined until winter ball – and then a return to the 2017 Opening Day lineup if everything went smoothly.

Maddon promised reporters that they would be surprised by how well Schwarber runs now. Schwarber estimated that video from his Arizona Fall League tune-up represented “about 50 percent” of what he could actually do.

“I wouldn’t put anything past Joe and their crew,” catcher David Ross said. “I’m not a doctor. I have no idea. Would I be shocked? To (use) ‘shocked’ and ‘Kyle Schwarber’ in the same sentence is probably a bad combo.

“That’s up to the docs. And who knows what Joe’s going to pull out of his hat at any time? I like our chances with – and without – Schwarber. But I like them a lot more with Schwarber.”   

The Cubs will at least have Schwarber looming as a dangerous pinch-hitter who generated five home runs and a 1.308 OPS during last year’s playoffs. Everything from that clutch performance to his middle-linebacker build to his show-choir video from high school endeared him to Cubs fans. 

Just showing Schwarber’s face on the Wrigley Field video board would get a reaction during a random game in the regular season, when he essentially became a cheerleader in the dugout. Now imagine him walking up to home plate in the World Series.

“The fans are going to go berserk,” Maddon said. “Our fans really appreciate how hard he worked to get back for this moment. Not everybody would have done that. That’s a tough injury to come back from – really tough – and to accelerate his recovery as much as he (did) speaks to him and the training staff. And I think our fans will appreciate that.”

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Can anybody dethrone the Dodgers?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Can anybody dethrone the Dodgers?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 record: 104-58, 1st place in NL West

Offseason additions: Matt Kemp, Scott Alexander, Brian Schlitter (former Cub still in the league), Pat Venditte (switch-pitcher), Hamlet Marte (only included because his name is "Hamlet")

Offseason departures: Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, Franklin Gutierrez, Scott Van Slyke, Brandon McCarthy, Luis Avilan, Scott Kazmir

X-factor: Chris Taylor/Alex Wood

Cheating a bit here and going with two guys.

Wood has been a very good and very underrated pitcher for his entire career, but he also has struggled to stay healthy. He made just 27 appearances (25 starts) last season and has pitched more than 172 innings in a season just once (2015).

Wood has a career 3.20 ERA and led the league in winning percentage last season after going 16-3. We all know Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet (again, when healthy), but if Wood can take the ball every fifth day, it takes so much pressure off Kershaw and makes the Dodgers that much more formidable.

Taylor came from out of absolutely nowhere last year to turn in a heck of a season - .288/.354/.496 slash line, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 85 R, 17 SB - and sat atop the Dodgers order as they marched all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. 

The power was a huge surprise, but he's always had speed, hit for a high average and drawn walks, so if the power plays again, he's a huge weapon, especially with Justin Turner down with a wrist injury now. And the power actually looks legit after a swing and philosophy change.

Projected lineup

1. Chris Taylor - CF
2. Corey Seager - SS
3. Cody Bellinger - 1B
4. Yasiel Puig - RF
5. Yasmani Grandal - C
6. Joc Pederson - LF
7. Logan Forsythe - 3B
8. Chase Utley - 2B

Projected rotation

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Alex Wood
3. Kenta Maeda
4. Rich Hill
5. Hyun-jin Ryu


Turner's broken wrist is a huge blow to the Dodgers before the season has even begun, especially when he's suddenly like the best right-handed hitter on the planet not named Mike Trout or Kris Bryant. 

Turner was always a solid utility player for the Mets but not much of a hitter (.696 OPS in 301 games with the Mets). In L.A., however, Turner has an .881 OPS in four years, including an incredible .945 OPS in 2017.

He's the anchor of their lineup and any time he misses is a big loss. But this Dodgers team is so talented around him that they'll be fine getting into the playoffs. Turner was bound to miss time anyways - he's played in more than 130 games in a season just once in his career.

The only thing that could slow this team down would be more injuries, especially if Kershaw's balky back rears its ugly head again. 

This may be the most talented roster in the National League (once Turner returns), so even in an NL West where four teams may be competing for the division title, the Dodgers should take the cake once again.

But will they have enough left in the tank to get past the Cubs or Nationals to represent the NL in the World Series once again?

Prediction: 1st in NL West

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

Here are the sharp holiday and special event uniforms that the Cubs will be rocking this season


Here are the sharp holiday and special event uniforms that the Cubs will be rocking this season

MLB will once again commemorate several holidays and special events during the 2018 season.

Monday, the league revealed the uniforms teams will don on Jackie Robinson Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and during Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day weekend.

The Cubs' regular uniforms are great, of course, but their special event uniforms are solid as well. Take a look:

Not too shabby, eh? In addition to the special caps and jerseys, MLB teams will be rocking unique socks and patches for each occasion. A complete collection of the uniforms can be found here.