CLEVELAND — “No, not right now,” Kyle Schwarber said without hesitation when asked if playing the outfield would be a possibility. The Cubs had just lost their first World Series game in 71 years, with Schwarber showing a minimal amount of rust for someone who hadn’t seen big-league action in more than six months.
Hitting with a brace wrapped around his surgically repaired left knee, Schwarber blasted a double off Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and split his matchups against nasty lefty reliever Andrew Miller (walk/strikeout) during Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Schwarber keeps smashing all expectations, returning from a gruesome outfield collision that was supposed to keep him sidelined until winter ball — and then a return to the 2017 Opening Day lineup if everything went smoothly.
Manager Joe Maddon promised reporters that they would be surprised by how well Schwarber runs now. Schwarber estimated that video from his Arizona Fall League tune-up represented “about 50 percent” of what he could actually do.
So when the World Series shifts on Friday to Wrigley Field — where the designated hitter will no longer be an option — could the Cubs start Schwarber in the outfield?
“I have no idea,” Maddon said before Wednesday’s Game 2. “I just want to keep an open mind. But I could keep as open of a mind as I possibly can — it’s up to the doctors to say what he can and cannot do. I would imagine that him playing and coming in today feeling normal is a positive.
“(With) his play tonight — and then we have a day off tomorrow — we can probably reevaluate. I have no proprietary information regarding what a doctor really thinks about this.
“So if it’s brought up to us, and the doc thinks he can ... but I’ve not even asked that question yet to the doctor. We were just trying to get one thing done at a time.”
The Cubs will at least have Schwarber looming as a dangerous pinch-hitter who generated five home runs and a 1.308 OPS during last year’s playoffs. Everything from that clutch performance to his middle-linebacker build to his show-choir video from high school endeared him to Cubs fans.
Just showing Schwarber’s face on the Wrigley Field video board would get a reaction during a random game in the regular season, when he essentially acted like a cheerleader in the dugout. Now imagine him walking up to home plate in the World Series.
“The fans are going to go berserk,” Maddon said. “Our fans really appreciate how hard he worked to get back for this moment. Not everybody would have done that. That’s a tough injury to come back from — really tough — and to accelerate his recovery as much as he (did) speaks to him and the training staff. And I think our fans will appreciate that.”
CLEVELAND - The World Series isn't over yet, but the awards are already rolling in for the Cubs.
Kris Bryant was named the Hank Aaron Award winner Wednesday evening, an accolade for the best hitter in each league. Aaron was on hand at the World Series in Cleveland to hand the award to Bryant and American League recipient David Ortiz, the now-retired Boston Red Sox legend.
"I want to thank all the fans and everyone who supported me for this award," Bryant said. "It's truly an honor to be up here with two of the best baseball players to ever play this game. I grew up watching Big Papi on the Red Sox get to this point and win a World Series, and hopefully I can do that here.
To accept an award with one of the best baseball players ever with [Hank Aaron's] name on it is a true honor for me, so thank you."
Bryant led the National League with 121 runs scored while also slugging 39 homers and driving in 102 runs. He hit .292 with a .385 on-base percentage and .554 slugging percentage (for a .939 OPS).
“Well, it’s ‘Hammerin’ KB,’” manager Joe Maddon said. “Just be a young player in KB’s shoes, and to win that award and then have that particular man present it to you, it’s impressive. It’s very impressive at a young age to be considered and then win it. There’s a lot of great competition out there.
“An award like this for KB could absolutely galvanize his thoughts about himself as a Major League Baseball player. It’s a great achievement for him. I’m very happy for him. And I know he will humbly accept it in the right way.”
After winning Rookie of the Year honors last season, Bryant may also be in line for the NL MVP this year as the anchor of a 103-win Cubs team.
"Kris, I watched him all year," Aaron said. "And I must say without any pun intended, that the Cubs are my favorite, of course. And the reason for that is because my friend who is no longer here, Mr. Ernie Banks. He was an idol of mine. I loved him, and I'm sure wherever he is today, he is smiling in his grave.
"I just want to say that I am smiling with him. I just wish that he could be here to play one more game, as he always said."
Josh Donaldson was the American League winner last season while Bryce Harper took home the NL honors.
Bryant is the second Cubs player to win the award after Sammy Sosa in 1999 (the first ever Hank Aaron Award). That season, Sosa hit 63 homers with 141 RBI, 114 rusn and a 1.002 OPS.