As the World Series returns to Wrigley Field for the the first time in 71 years, Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber will stick to pinch-hitting after doctors decided he wasn’t ready to play defense.
After Schwarber’s impressive displays in Cleveland as a designated hitter, there were suggestions he could play left field when the teams switch to Chicago for Games 3, 4 and 5 – despite the fact that he hasn’t played the outfield since tearing his ACL in April. Schwarber missed almost the entire season, and was only added to the World Series roster at the last minute after making a remarkable recovery.
In the end, however, the Cubs decided not to risk him, and Schwarber will have to make his impact from the bench.
“Kyle has not been medically cleared to play the field, so he will not be in the lineup the next three games,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But we do look forward to him impacting the game as a pinch hitter for us, and certainly should the series return to Cleveland, he’ll be eligible to continue as a designated hitter.”
“It’s not disappointing at all,” Schwarber said. “It was a long shot at the most. You know, obviously I want to be out there for my team-mates and everything, it’s just the competitor inside me, but facts are facts. I just can’t physically do it.”
Schwarber went 3-for-7 with two walks and two RBIs in Games 1 and 2. He also became the first position player in MLB history to have his first hit of the season in the World Series.
“There’s no being sad about it,” Schwarber said. “There’s no nothing. I know my role now, and I’m going to embrace it.”
Epstein said there was no room for sentiment. “We’re all disappointed. We’d love to see Kyle out there getting four-plus at-bats a game. But I think it was important to talk to a medical professional, who’s objective and detached from the situation.”
Friday’s game should present even more bedlam than usual. More than six hours before the first pitch, thousands of fans were already in the streets ringing Wrigley Field. Many Chicagoans skipped work to prepare for a weekend that could see the Cubs finally end their 108-year wait for a title.
The Cubs played in front of packed crowds at Wrigley for much of the season, and even the Indians are looking forward to the scene.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Cleveland slugger Mike Napoli said. “I watched when they clinched to go to the World Series and how crazy it was, and seeing the fans in the streets where they had to have police escorts. You could just see the crowd just part ways. So it’s going to be fun. It’s something that I wanted to be a part of, and thought that it would be an unbelievable World Series.”
Josh Tomlin makes his third playoff start in the Wrigley opener, while Corey Kluber looms over Game 4 on Saturday night on short rest. Kyle Hendricks will pitch for the Cubs on Friday night.
The lack of a designated hitter for the NL park affects the Indians, too. Carlos Santana will likely to left field for only the second time in his career. “We’re thinking about it,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think, I mean, there’s no reason not to it’s no big secret, we’re trying to balance scoring more runs than them. OK, he’s a big part of our offense.”
Santana set career highs with 34 homers and 87 RBIs this season. He also walked 99 times and had a .259 batting average for his best number since he hit .268 in 2013. But the Indians face a challenging match-up against Hendricks: the major league ERA leader had a 1.32 ERA in 15 home games this year, and is coming off 7 1/3 shutout innings in Game 6 against the Dodgers, which clinched the NL Championship Series.
“It just feels like I’m right at home, honestly,” Hendricks said. “I think that’s part of why I’ve had the success here.”
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Friday 28th October 2016 15.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010