Middletown's Kyle Schwarber will DH for Cubs in World Series opener

Slugger injured in second game of season
Will Middletown native play in World Series?
Posted at 11:25 PM, Oct 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-26 05:50:08-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio --  If a Cubs-Indians World Series needed any more drama, now you have Kyle Schwarber looking for his first hit of the big-league season.

The young slugger from Middletown hasn't played a major-league game since the second day, but Schwarber will be the Cubs' designated hitter and batting fifth when the World Series starts Tuesday night.

It's no secret why. At his best, Schwarber would add a powerful bat to an already imposing Cubs lineup. And though nobody expects him to be at his best, just six months after knee surgery, the Cubs figure his pretty good will be good enough.

"If we do put him on the roster, it's because we think he can hit a homer, honestly," General Manager Jed Hoyer said Monday on 670 The Score.

Schwarber set a franchise record with five postseason home runs in nine games last year, including a moonshot that landed atop the Wrigley Field scoreboard.

He also apparently likes to hit in Cleveland's Progressive Field. He made his MLB debut there in June 2015 and went 6-for-9 with four extra-base hits.

When Schwarber tore two ligaments in his left knee back in April, in an outfield collision, he was 0-for-4 for the year and supposed to be sidelined until next spring.  But he worked hard to rehab the knee and made a remarkably quick recovery.

The Cubs are expected to use Schwarber as DH in Games 1-2 and 6-7 in Cleveland and as a pinch hitter in Games 3-4-5 in Chicago, or for as long as the series goes.

The Cleveland Indians scoreboard crew must have been taking their best guess when they posted the Cubs' lineup Monday night with Schwarber batting ninth. The Cubs didn't officially add him to their World Series roster until Tuesday morning.

The Cubs tested Schwarber's readiness by letting him DH in the Arizona Fall League the last few days. He hadn't looked convincing in his first seven times up, going 0-for-5 with two walks in two games Saturday and Monday. But he doubled to right on a screamer in his last at-bat and slid into second with no apparent reservation.

"He ran the bases before the game really well, slid, dove back in, went first to third, second to home," Cubs VP Theo Epstein said Monday during the Cubs' workout in Cleveland. "He looked really good. He's running pretty well. He's saving his hits, apparently, because he keeps hitting the balls at guys."

Schwarber has looked good in the batting cage since last week, Cubs officials said.


Schwarber’s high school coach, Dan McCullough, said he has always been a natural, and he is hopeful Schwarber will be back at the plate.

"Just watching him excel is what he does, and it's not surprising that he came back this quick from his injury because Kyle's work ethic is amazing," McCullough said.

Schwarber showed signs of brilliance from age 11.

"At such a young age, we were starting to use the L screen, and he was one of the major reasons why,” McCullough said. “As a coach a lot of the times when you throw a pitch, you're watching hands, and you're looking at everything, and you have time to react… but with Kyle you would throw the pitch and make sure you're behind the L screen because there's probably one coming back very quick at you."

Carmela Cotter, Schwarber’s high school principal, said he has always been a leader on the field, and she wants him to know his entire hometown is rooting for him.

"We just want to say, 'Kyle, good luck,’” Cotter said. “‘Glad to see you coming back from your injury and Go Cubs!'"