PHOENIX — An ambulance cart drove Kyle Schwarber off Chase Field on Thursday night, giving the Cubs perhaps their first crisis in a season filled with great expectations.
Facedown in the dirt, Schwarber had waited for two Cubs trainers to reach him at the warning track after he collided with Dexter Fowler as they converged on a flyball in the left-center field gap.
Schwarber’s left leg crashed into Fowler in the second inning, and both outfielders tumbled to the ground while Arizona Diamondbacks leadoff guy Jean Segura sprinted for an inside-the-park home run.
That clouded a 14-6 win that showed this team’s blunt offensive force, and it’s too early to tell whether or not the Cubs will have to get by without Schwarber bashing in the middle of their lineup.
The Cubs framed it as Schwarber getting evaluated for a sprained left ankle, with initial X-rays coming back negative and an MRI scheduled for Friday, at which point the franchise will know more about one of its most valuable assets and if there is any damage to the knee.
“The ball was literally in no man’s land,” Schwarber said, standing on crutches at his locker. “We both thought that (the other guy) wasn’t going to get the ball. So you only call it if you know you can get it. We both went at it, and I stuck my glove up. I was pretty close. But then he dove for it, too.
“We were playing hard. I have no regrets about playing hard and getting hurt.”
Manager Joe Maddon said: “It had bad things written all over it. The guy hits the ball in the one spot that we can’t cover.”
After several anxious moments, a crowd of 24,656 gave Schwarber a round of applause as he slowly rose to his feet, his arms hanging over the two athletic trainers for support.
The Cubs loved Schwarber’s football mentality when they drafted the Indiana University catcher/outfielder fourth overall in 2014, overlooking the questions about his long-term defensive future and believing in his vicious left-handed swing.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to back down,” winning pitcher John Lackey said. “He’s going to keep going hard. You hate seeing that, because he’s such a good dude. Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious.
“As a pitcher, you appreciate the effort. But, man, you never want to see him getting hurt. That’s tough to watch.”
The against-the-grain decision to draft Schwarber and aggressively promote him through the minor-league system helped spark a team that benefited from remarkably good health and finished with 97 wins.
Schwarber, a second-team All-Ohio linebacker in high school, gave the lineup a different dimension as a hard-charging rookie, hitting 16 homers in 69 games and then blasting five more in the playoffs.
“I’m not going to be down in spirit,” Schwarber said. “I’m going to just wait until tomorrow and see what happens.”
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Schwarber watched the replay and realized how serious it looked. He said he felt tight and sore but tried to stay upbeat.
“I’m a big body to be running into,” Schwarber said. “(At first), I was just more worried about how Dexter was doing because I hit him pretty well.”
The Cubs might have the most talent on paper in the majors, enough depth to where Schwarber could become a personal catcher for Jason Hammel, learn from veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross behind the plate and sit against tough lefties.
Signing Fowler to a one-year, $13 million contract in late February looks like a prescient move, and there have been lingering questions about where Jorge Soler will fit in the outfield mix.
Javier Baez (left thumb contusion) would be eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday if the Cubs want a potential super-utility guy. Kris Bryant can also play the outfield and open up third base for Tommy La Stella.
But at this point, all the Cubs can do is wait for the MRI results on Schwarber’s left leg.