Cubs

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.

Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to take care of business against the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.

Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a brutal outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup. The Cubs president anticipated getting a better idea of when the left-handed slugger might start hitting and eventually play winter ball.   

“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard.

“He asked for a chance to do this. With as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”

Schwarber flew from Dallas on Monday to Los Angeles, where he hit in the cage at Dodger Stadium that night. As the NL Championship Series unfolded, Schwarber hit again on Tuesday and then left for Arizona on Wednesday to ramp up his baseball activities and prove whether or not he could again be a difference-maker in October.

Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, generated 16 home runs in 69 games last season and then set a franchise record with five homers in the playoffs. The Cleveland Indians would have to account for that kind of lineup presence in potential World Series Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at Progressive Field, plus the pinch-hit opportunities to drive another ball onto a Wrigley Field video board.

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“We’ll see where this goes,” Epstein said. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of work to do here before this becomes pertinent on a short-term basis. But it’s a testament to how hard Kyle has worked to even be in this position where it’s a possibility.” 

The Cubs still have to deal with Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night in Game 6, and then judge whether or not this layoff is too long, even for one of their best young hitters, especially against Cleveland’s dynamic bullpen.

Schwarber has been working out with a brace on his left knee, taking live batting practice on Friday in Mesa against James Farris, a Cubs prospect in the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs will have scouts watching Schwarber, who’s supposed to call Epstein and the team’s medical staff again on Saturday night with an update. The Cubs have already received good reports on Schwarber’s agility tests, watching him running, cutting and changing directions.

“He’s so passionate about baseball,” Epstein said. “He’s just been behind the scenes working his tail off and managing to stay part of the team. Physically, he’s on an accelerated timetable. And from a baseball standpoint, certainly, he’s only got about a week or so to get ready. But mentally, he’s been preparing for this for six months.

“He’s been doing advance scouting. He’s been watching how pitchers attack hitters. He’s been studying his own video. He’s been studying opposing video, so mentally he’s been preparing for this for a long time and has been itching to contribute.

“Just the fact that he’s gotten to this point is a testament to his character. He’s got everyone in the organization pulling for him.”

This is all goes back to how the Cubs drafted Schwarber when some in the industry viewed him as a DH and a reach that high in the first round, or why he became untouchable when the New York Yankees kept asking about him before trading lights-out reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians.

The Cubs will never bet against Schwarber.

“Typically guys need much longer to get their timing and get ready,” Epstein said. “But I wouldn’t put anything past Kyle.”

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

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USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA TODAY

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”