Life after Schwarber in 2016: 'Grieving period' over for Cubs

Life after Schwarber in 2016: 'Grieving period' over for Cubs

As the sellout crowd cheered through the frigid Chicago evening, Kyle Schwarber limped toward home plate at Wrigley Field one last time this season.

After the Cubs' coaching staff and roster was announced before Monday's home opener, Schwarber slowly crept out of the dugout and walked toward Joe Maddon at the end of the roster lined up alongside the third-base line, using a single crutch as support.

The Cubs showed a brief highlight reel of Schwarber's greatest moments - including the monster homer on top of the right-field scoreboard against the Cardinals in the NLDS last season - and announced the "Fast Hulk" last, giving him one more moment in the Wrigley spotlight before he misses the rest of the season with two torn ligaments in his knee.

Schwarber's teammates also paid homage to the slugger by blasting his walk-up song ("Thuggish Ruggish Bone") during batting practice.

The pregame tributes were something of symbolic moments for the rest of the Cubs who know they have to move beyond Schwarber's devastating injury.

"I still wake up every morning and for a few seconds, I'm not sure it really happened or it was a bad dream and then you realize it did [happen]," Theo Epstein said. "I think it's OK to admit - the team had to go through a little bit of a mourning or greiving period (not to minimize real grief and mourning; this is obviously something different.)

"And then you move on. We had our worst game [Friday] night, after we got the news and I don't think it was coincidence. Then the guys rallied and recovered and we moved forward with him.

"It's not like we're leaving him behind. He's going to be back next year. He's going to be around as much as he possibly can. I know I started to feel better after chatting with him and spent some time with him last night. That's the type of guy he is - raising other people's spirits. He's still right in the middle of it."

Epstein said immediately after the injury, Schwarber's focus was on the team and trying to keep the early good times rolling - a mindset the Cubs president of baseball operations hopes filters through the rest of the clubhouse.

Epstein's front office knows injuries are just a part of the game and added depth all over the field to help counteract potential back-breaking tenants to the team's disabled list. Imagine how much worse the Schwarber injury would look without Dexter Fowler's surprise re-arrival a week into spring training.

The St. Louis Cardinals have made it look like an art form to rise above serious injuries in recent years, winning 100 games last season despite major injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, among others.

Joe Maddon hates the fact Schwarber won't suit up for the Cubs again in 2016, but he believes there's enough leadership and character in the clubhouse to rise above the loss - both from veterans and the mature young players.

"They've been around long enough to know we can survive this. They know that we realize people are going to have to pick each other up," Maddon said, mentioning the early contributions from underrated players like Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur. "So when these other kids get an opportunity, I really believe you're gonna see a lot of guys [do well].

"It's gonna take more guys obviously before the season's over. They're gonna come up from the minor leagues and do equally as well and surprise a lot of people."

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?


Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.


Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below:


Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

The changing of the guard continues for the Cubs this offseason. 

After the team hired a new hitting coach yesterday, it was reported today that they're losing a front office member: 

Rehman, who has been with the Cubs in the same position for the last seven years, will reportedly head up the Rangers' analytics department. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rehman's role was " evaluating existing systems, and recognizing and applying solutions in an effort to create competitive advantages for the organization." 

All reports indicate that he'll be doing similar analytic-based work with the Rangers.