Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber will begin play in the Arizona Fall League tonight, and The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma reports that there’s still a chance Schwarber could be activated in time to serve as a designated hitter should Chicago reach the World Series.
On April 7, in just his second game of the year, Schwarber tore both the ACL and LCL in his left knee after colliding with center fielder Dexter Fowler while chasing a fly ball. The injury was expected to sideline Schwarber until 2017, though he has been making good progress in his recovery, even taking part in an on-field workout at Dodger Stadium before Game 3 of the NLCS. Needless to say, it would be a shocking turn of events for Schwarber to return at all just 6.5 months removed from major knee surgery, let alone to make his return in the high-intensity environment of the Fall Classic.
Provided that the Cubs make the World Series in the first place, the team won’t have much time to evaluate Schwarber in the AFL given that Game One of the Series begins on Tuesday night in Cleveland. The plan would be to use Schwarber as a DH for the games in Cleveland and as a pinch-hitter for the games at Wrigley Field. ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports (Twitter link) that Schwarber won’t be playing the field and “running [is] still an issue,” so it could be that Schwarber will be strictly a bat-only player. The Cubs have enough multi-position players that they could potentially get away with using a roster spot on a very limited Schwarber, so Joe Maddon will face a fascinating decision if things line up his team’s way come Tuesday.
The young slugger burst onto the scene in 2015 by hitting 16 homers over his first 273 plate appearances in the bigs, and he has already proven himself to be a big October performer. Schwarber hit .333/.419/.889 with five homers over 31 PA during Chicago’s 2015 playoff run, making him the leading home run hitter in Cubs’ postseason history.