PHOENIX – Kyle Schwarber could have wondered if he will ever be the same player again, whether or not he can regain the power and explosiveness that made him so valuable to the Cubs, but that’s not how he’s wired.
“I think I’m going to come back better,” Schwarber said Saturday in a matter-of-fact tone.
Schwarber stood on crutches inside Chase Field’s visiting clubhouse, almost 48 hours after the collision that Dexter Fowler said “felt like getting in a car crash.” The damage is already done, Schwarber facing surgery on his left knee to repair a torn ACL and LCL and awaiting a long, difficult rehab process.
“You got to face it head on,” Schwarber said. “That’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to back down from it. I want to be there for the team whenever I can. I want to be pushing to get myself bigger, faster, stronger for next year.”
Schwarber can’t second-guess how he responded in what amounted to a split-second decision in the middle of a perfect storm once Arizona Diamondbacks leadoff guy Jean Segura drove the ball into the left-center field gap.
“I could definitely feel bad if I did something wrong or if I wasn’t playing hard or something in that nature,” Schwarber said. “But me and Dex did everything that we possibly could to catch that ball. And literally everything had to be on time for this to happen.
“My spirits won’t get down. I know it’s going to be a long road. There’s going to be ups and downs. I just got to keep a good attitude with this and cheer these guys on.”
While Schwarber also severely sprained his ankle, Fowler escaped the accident scene with only a sore hip.
“That’s a big man over there, but you respect the hell out of him for the way he handled it,” Fowler said. “You only call the ball if you know you can catch it. I think we were both just going hard, going at it, being competitive and stuff like that happens.
“You never know what’s in God’s plan.”
The Cubs will clearly miss Schwarber’s left-handed power, the quick, compact swing that produced 16 home runs in 69 games last season and then five more during the playoff run that no one really saw coming.
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Schwarber’s fast-track development — as the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University — accelerated the rebuild at Wrigley Field.
Schwarber handled the overnight success in a way that endeared him to teammates, with pitcher Jason Hammel saying he felt like “I lost my son” — not just a personal catcher — and Fowler calling him “my little brother.”
Schwarber has been cleared to fly back to Chicago with the team after Sunday’s game, but doesn’t yet know when he will have the surgery or where he will do his rehab.
The Cubs don’t know if Schwarber will be able to recapture the range of motion that allowed him to be a big-league catcher, or when they will be able to count on him again, but they absolutely believe in his work ethic and mental toughness.
After suffering a devastating season-ending combination of injuries in Game 3, a reasonable hope for the Cubs would be having Schwarber ready for the beginning of spring training in 2017.
“I’m going to push myself as hard as I can to be back healthy 100 percent,” Schwarber said. “Wherever that timetable leads me, I’ll be ready.”