When the baseball world last saw Kyle Schwarber, he was Babe Ruth. In the span of 15 games with the Washington Nationals to close out June, Schwarber mashed 15 homers and slugged over 1.000.
Then he tried to stretch a single into a double vs. the Dodgers on July 2 and the wheels came off. He badly strained his hamstring and hasn't played since.
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He's now a member of the Red Sox and hoping to pick up where he left off for a team in the heart of the pennant race. The club made no other trade deadline moves of significance, so whatever it gets from Schwarber will likely be the extent of the outside help it receives as it tries to hold off the retooled Yankees, Rays, and Jays in the division, and the much-improved Astros, A's, and White Sox in the American League.
"I'm very excited to be here," Schwarber said on a Zoom call with reporters. "It's always a nice feeling when you're walking into a really good situation and knowing that you're going to be able to come in and help a team push to a goal and to go out there, hopefully to the postseason and beyond. It's going to be really fun."
The left fielder is preparing to don a first baseman's mitt for the first time in his career, unless you count the one play he got there as part of a five-man Cubs infield in 2017 before a walkoff wild pitch vs. the Brewers ("I was hoping the ball would get hit to me," he said.)
A catcher in college and the minors, Schwarber has already transitioned to a new position once, and he believes he could do so again.
"I'm going to go out there and keep taking groundballs, try to put us in a position to (try this) new position," he said. "For me, I view myself as a pretty good athlete. I just want to be able to go out there and make sure you have the basics down, and as you keep progressing, you keep learning things. Obviously there is a sense of urgency here with where the club is at. I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that if I'm going in there at first base, there's not going to be a beat missed."
There's little question why Schwarber is here. He hit .253 with 25 homers in the first half for the Nationals, making his first All-Star team. The Red Sox have an obvious hole at first base, where Bobby Dalbec has struggled and Michael Chavis was just traded away, but even if Schwarber is only able to play the outfield, his bat is worth whatever shuffling needs to take place.
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He proved that in June, when he simply went off with five multi-homer games, single-handedly carrying the Nats back into the NL East race before his injury effectively turned them into sellers at the trade deadline.
"The home runs were the home runs," Schwarber said. "When you hit that many, you just kind of sit back and laugh and just hope that feeling never goes away. Just to get back out there on the field now, I believe hitting is a feeling. You just want to be able to keep that same feeling going to the box."
From a Red Sox perspective, Schwarber really opens lineup possibilities if he's able to learn first base. That will be the challenge as he hopes to soon begin a rehab assignment that could return him to the lineup in the next couple of weeks.
"I am looking forward to the challenge," he said. "I'm not a guy who is going to shy away from something. They asked and I said let's go. Trust me, I will be working my butt off to be over there. I know that people can be a little iffy or whatever it is if you see a guy who hasn't played first base before. I will give you guys my word that I'm going to be working my butt off over there and do the best to my possible abilities."