October 24, 2016
He's Back: Kyle Schwarber To DH For Cubs In World Series Game 1

Hard work pays off. Just ask the Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber.

Six and a half months after tearing his ACL in his second game of the season, Schwarber is expected to be added to the Cubs' World Series roster and DH in Game 1 against the Cleveland Indians, the team he made his major league debut against in 2015, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

This is gigantic news, and news Cubs fans had hoped for all year without really believing it could be possible. Typically, the recovery time for a torn ACL is 6-12 months, so Schwarber is just entering that time frame right now.

But with the DH spot available in games in Cleveland, the team has apparently decided to roll the dice on a guy that hasn't seen live pitching in six months. He has played in two Arizona Fall League games in the last few days to get himself back up to speed.

Some guys he could bump off the playoff roster include Chris Coghlan and Rob Zastrynzy.

It's been a long road back for Schwarber ever since this happened:

The injury was initially reported as an ankle injury, but later tests revealed a full tear of the ACL. It was devastating news for Schwarber, who was coming off a monster postseason in which he hit five home runs, already making him the Cubs' all-time postseason leader in home runs.

He didn't get to play a single game at Wrigley Field this season, but the fans didn't forget about his contributions down the stretch in 2015, and in October of his rookie season. He got a standing ovation while introduced on crutches during the team's home opener this season.

It is hard to tell just how much Schwarber should be able to give the Cubs, but he is among the team's biggest power threats when he is on his game. That is why he is worth the roster spot despite registering just five plate appearances during the regular season.

His recovery and long road back are an inspiring story of perseverance and determination. He still traveled with the team during most of his rehab and worked to get back as quickly as possible. Without that drive, he would not be in the position to play for the Cubs in the World Series.

Against Corey Kluber in Game 1, the Cubs could very easily stack their lineup like this:

  1. CF Dexter Fowler
  2. 3B Kris Bryant
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  4. LF Ben Zobrist
  5. DH Kyle Schwarber
  6. 2B Javier Baez
  7. SS Addison Russell
  8. C David Ross
  9. RF Jason Heyward
There is also a possibility manager Joe Maddon bats Russell ninth in order to give himself a "second lead-off man," but that remains to be seen. It's staggering how much deeper the team gets offensively when Schwarber is added to the lineup.

[caption id="attachment_3638141" align="alignnone" width="940"]Jason Heyward warms up before the Cubs' NLCS game against the Dodgers. Jason Heyward has been ineffective at the plate, but his defense will make Joe Maddon think twice about keeping him out of the lineup.[Image by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images][/caption]

Maddon could even decide to play Zobrist in right field and Willson Contreras in left field while leaving Jason Heyward out of the lineup. Obviously, Heyward has been ineffective all season long. His defense in right field is good enough to make Maddon think about keeping him out there, though.

Schwarber has to be the most anticipated World Series player to have played less than a full season in the big leagues. Since he had so much success when it mattered most last year, it feels like he's been around for a lot longer than he has.

That's what makes his return so exciting for Cubs fans: he's clutch. In October, when the long ball can completely change games, having his bat available is huge. Even if he doesn't start games at Wrigley, he will be the first bat off the bench. Do you think any right-handed reliever wants to face him in a big spot?

[caption id="attachment_3638142" align="alignnone" width="940"]Kyle Schwarber runs after making contact against the Giants in 2016 Spring Training. Kyle Schwarber has played in two Arizona Fall League games as a tune up to return to the Cubs for the World Series.[Image by Jeff Chiu/AP Images][/caption]

We have no way of knowing what Schwarber will look like in a World Series game. Then again, we have no way of knowing how any Cub will play in a World Series game; it hasn't happened in 71 years.

So, while the opportunity is there, roll the dice. Take a chance that a power-hitting 23-year-old can help end the longest title drought in professional sports.

[Featured image by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]