Cubs

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.”

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

In the midst of a second straight tough game against the Nationals, the Cubs were dealt another dose of bad news when Anthony Rizzo was forced out of the contest due to injury.

The first baseman was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team called mid-back tightness. The Cubs did not have an update on his status immediately following the 7-2 loss.

Rizzo had walked the previous inning and was stranded on third base when a full-count pitch to Ian Happ was called a strike:

Rizzo made an error in each of the first two innings of the game, throwing a ball into left field when second base wasn't being covered and then dropping a throw from Javy Baez to begin the second inning.

Rizzo has dealt with back issues throughout his career, including a stint where he missed four games in mid-May.

Jonathan Lucroy hit for Rizzo in the fifth inning and doubled home the Cubs' second run of the game. He stayed in to catch while Victor Cartaini moved from behind the plate to first base.

The Cubs were already operating with a short bench since they currently have a nine-man bullpen and they had already utilized Happ off the bench earlier in the game (he was later ejected after the controversial call).

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

"Woof."

That's the first "word" Joe Maddon used to describe his thoughts on the all-white and all-black MLB Players Weekend uniforms and the Cubs manager may as well be speaking for seemingly every baseball fan on Earth.

The color schemes have not been a popular pick this weekend, from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying his team feels like they're wearing "milkman uniforms" to the endless run of Stormtrooper or Backstreet Boys jokes:

One of the biggest draws of Players Weekend is the nicknames on the back of the jerseys, but in the white uniforms, you can't even see the team's logo let alone what the jersey number or nameplate says.

That's led to plenty of ideas for improvement, including letting the home teams add color to their white uniforms however they see fit:

But Maddon had maybe the best idea on how to make the uniforms better for the 2020 Players Weekend.

"They should have every team design their own Players Weekend uniform," Maddon said. "That would be cool. Like with us, you go to [Anthony] Rizzo, [Jason] Heyward, [Jon] Lester, whomever your team leaders are and in the offseason, say, 'we're gonna do this next year, you're gonna be on the road, so consider road kind of uniform - go. You style the Cubs uniforms.'

"Then it truly is Players Weekend. I think you'd get a lot more interesting and better unigrams if you went that route."

That would be awesome and would allow for plenty of creativity from the players' end.

The other issue with the all-black jerseys is how closely they resemble the umpires' uniforms. At various points when the home team is up, it looks like there are five or six players on one side of the infield with the umpires.

It's also led the defenders to blend in with the wall at Wrigley, too.

"From the dugout, looking out, the ivy is so dark, also, so when their players are running out there, it's almost like they disappear into the ivy," Maddon said. "Again, it was not good form. There's no way I can advocate that. It's just not good form. And that's not even being a traditionalist, honestly. It's another version of the dress code - the worst dressers create dress codes."

The Cubs also had to make a change in regards to their hats for Players Weekend.

Home pitchers are not allowed to wear white caps because of the possibility the baseball will blend in with the hat as it's being delivered. So on Friday, Jon Lester wore his blue Cubs hat and the rest of his teammates followed suit in a show of uniform uniformity.

However, they all took the field with the white hats Saturday (Jose Quintana wearing a black Cubs hat) after being told they have to wear the all-white version this weekend.

So this weekend is all about the players and fun and games...but also rules and stipulations that must be adhered to.