Schwarbrrr! Cub hot on frigid stage

Still to be determined whether slugger can play field as Series shifts to Wrigley

October 27th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- The bright green bracelet on 's left wrist says something about what the Cubs' slugger has done so far in his against-all-odds World Series, even at a game apiece after Chicago's 5-1 win over the Indians in Game 2 on Wednesday. It says something about the challenge that lies ahead at the designated-hitter-free zone that is Wrigley Field, too.

The bracelet was a gift from Campbell Faulkner, a fourth-grader from suburban Phoenix with a rare form of mitochondrial disease who befriended Schwarber in Spring Training and stayed in touch via email all summer. The two reconnected in person earlier this week during Schwarber's crash course in the Arizona Fall League.

Game 3: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

Long odds? Faulkner knows them.

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Schwarber knows them, too.

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"Really young, smart kid, and he's just always got a big smile on his face," Schwarber said after collecting two more hits and his first two RBIs in Game 2 of a World Series he wasn't supposed to play in. "He's living life to his fullest, even though he's got something to overcome."

Were Schwarber's eyes getting misty? It was difficult to tell for sure.

"That's a person you want to look up to, right there," Schwarber said.

That from a player who had just done as much as anyone to keep the Cubs from falling into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series. That Schwarber played in Games 1 and 2 at all is a marvel, considering he is getting around on a surgically repaired left knee that went kaboom during Chicago's second game of the season. The idea of being on the World Series roster did not even cross Schwarber's mind, he said, until last week when a doctor gave the surprise news that he was clear to start swinging the bat.

Six AFL at-bats later, Schwarber was going 1-for-3 with a walk and a double off the wall against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series. In Game 2, Schwarber swung under a fastball in the first for an inning-ending strikeout, but caught up to one of those fastballs in a 3-0 count for an RBI single in the third. He singled home another run against reliever in the fifth.

Baseball is not supposed to be this easy.

"It's not that easy, first off," Schwarber said. "Baseball's a crazy game. It will do crazy things to you, but this is the moment that we all look for when we were little kids, to play in the World Series and win it. We just took a small step today, but we've still got a long way to go."

Three games at Wrigley Field await. The DH is not an option in National League parks, so Cubs doctors and coaches will have to decide at a workout Thursday whether Schwarber, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL six months ago, can play the outfield.

As of Wednesday night, the doctors had not given that clearance, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

"We don't want to put him at risk," Hoyer said.

But ...

"I think it's an overused word, but 'unbelievable,'" Hoyer said. "We know that guy can face world-caliber pitching and have a double off the wall and two RBI singles and two really good walks, and even some of his strikeouts have been great at-bats. I don't think he's had a poor at-bat since he's been back."

That's clear. But can Schwarber play the field on that knee?

"I wouldn't be surprised at all," said. "I'm sure after these two games, he's got enough confidence to go out there and do it. But I never had this injury before. … They're going to make a movie about him."

Thursday's workout will provide a clue. If Schwarber is seen shagging fly balls during batting practice, testing the stability of his knee in side-to-side movements, there is a chance he will play Game 3. Otherwise, he would be a power left-handed bat off the bench.

"That's something I'm waiting to hear from our medical side, because obviously he looks good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He looks good at the plate. Running the bases, he looks pretty good so far. I talked to him there before his last at-bat, I asked him if he got on base if he was good to go. He said yes, and I said, 'OK, fine. Just make sure you stay smart with it.' There's nothing about watching him that tells me that he's inhibited right now."

After Game 1, Schwarber was asked about whether playing the outfield at Wrigley was a possibility and he answered definitively, "No, not right now."

Schwarber was asked the same question after Game 2, and gave an amended answer.

"We'll see," he said. "I haven't tried it."