It was hard to know what to expect from Kyle Schwarber when the Cubs cleared him to return for the World Series against the Indians. The 23-year-old suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee in early April and only recently recieved a handful of at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. So far, the gamble has paid off quite nicely. After hitting a double off the wall and drawing a walk in a Game 1 loss on Tuesday, Schwarber went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk in Wednesday’s Game 2 victory.
The Cubs had the luxury of using Schwarber out of the designated hitter spot for those games, but things get more complicated with the series shifting back to Chicago (and National League rules) for the next three games. The hope was that he would receive clearance to play left field in Game 3 against right-hander Josh Tomlin, but doctors informed the front office on Thursday that they feel the risk is too great to do so at this time. As a result, he’ll be limited to pinch-hitting duties over the weekend.
It’s not what the Cubs wanted to hear, but Schwarber is considered an important part of the team’s future and they are doing right by him for the long-term. Keep in mind that the possibility of Schwarber playing in the World Series wasn’t being discussed publicly a week ago. Even having him available for a crucial late-inning at-bat is amazing under the circumstances.
Now that Schwarber has been ruled out to start in Chicago, we can expect to see Ben Zobrist in left field again and some combination of Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward, Chris Coghlan, and Albert Almora in right. That right field combo is just 2-for-55 (.036) combined this postseason. Yes, really. They've been that bad. It will be interesting to see if Willson Contreras is thrown into the outfield mix at some point in Chicago.
Indians Making Smooth Move for Game 3?
Kyle Schwarber’s status was the big news on Thursday, but there was also an interesting development with the Indians. As mentioned above, the designated hitter won’t be available for the games in Chicago. This puts Cleveland in a tough spot with Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli. If one of them starts at first base, the other will be limited to pinch-hitting duties. Or will they?
Santana took fly balls in left field earlier this week in Cleveland and again during Thursday’s workout at Wrigley Field. Nothing is official yet, based on what Indians manager Terry Francona told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, it sure sounds like we should expect to see him there in Game 3 on Friday against Kyle Hendricks.
“You try to figure out, ‘OK, what’s our best way to win?’” Francona told Bastian. “If we don’t play him out there, that’s the best way to have nobody second-guessing me. I don’t know if that’s the best way to win.”
Santana has only played four innings in left field in his career and that was four years ago. By the way, the wind is expected to be howling at Wrigley Field on Friday. It could be quite the adventure for him out there, but the Indians are willing to roll the dice to get his bat in the lineup.
Santana, who hit 34 homers with an .865 OPS during the regular season, is batting .143/.250/.314 over 10 games during the postseason. He’s 0-for-6 with four strikeouts and two walks in the World Series.
Quick Hits: Former Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson has elected to become a free agent … According to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, as expected, White Sox right-hander James Shields will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract … The Reds have designated former top prospect left-hander John Lamb for assignment. Lamb, 26, was acquired from the Royals in the Johnny Cueto deal last summer and is expected to get a late start on the 2017 season following back surgery … Wilson Ramos’ agent told the Washington Post that his client still plans to seek a four- or five-year contract in free agency … Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt was recently clocked at 97 mph while facing hitters in Arizona and is expected to work as a pitcher in the Panama Winter League …