Schwarber out for season: What's next for Cubs?
The X-factor with any team in any sport is injury.
No matter how good things look entering a season, things can take a turn if a key player gets hurt.
The Cubs will have to deal with an early-season injury blow that will last throughout the entire regular season.
Outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber, who captivated Cubs fans with his prodigious power last season, will miss the remainder of the 2016 season because of severe injuries to his left knee and ankle.
Schwarber suffered tears to the anterior cruciate and lateral cruciate ligaments in his left knee, in addition to a sever sprain to his left ankle, the result of a violent outfield collision Thursday night.
Playing left field, Schwarber collided with center fielder Dexter Fowler as both chased a fly ball off the bat of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Jean Segura in the bottom of the second inning. The 23-year-old Schwarber lie on the ground for several minutes and was taken off the field in a cart. The play went for an inside-the-park home run for Segura.
The Cubs placed Schwarber on the 15-day disabled list Friday, and they recalled infielder Munenori Kawasaki from Class AAA Iowa.
Schwarber will undergo knee surgery within 1-3 weeks before facing about six months of rehabilitation.
Even though the Cubs have a deep, powerful and talented lineup, the injury to Schwarber will test their depth. Jorge Soler started Friday's game against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs also have Matt Szczur on the roster, and they can move third baseman Kris Bryant to the outfield when necessary.
The news hit the Cubs hard as they continued their four-game series against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
"A young man in his sophomore season in the big leagues, one of the most refreshing and talented in all of major- league baseball," manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "Now to be out for the rest of the season, it's not easy."
The Cubs entered this season as the favorites to win the National League Central and they were picked by many to win the World Series after advancing to the NL championship series last season.
If there's a model for the Cubs to follow, it's their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 100 games last year even as the suffered several key injuries, including to ace starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.
Schwarber was the Cubs' first-round pick (fourth overall selection) in the 2014 draft. He came up from Class AA Tennessee last June 16. Soon after that he went to Class AAA Iowa before being recalled for good on July 17.
In 69 regular-season games, Schwarber put up a line of .246/.355/.487 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI.
He smacked 5 home runs in the postseason, including a now-legendary blast in Game 4 of the championship series at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals. The ball from that home run landed atop the right-field video board.
Cubs president Theo Epstein said he admired Schwarber's desire to be with the team while he rehabs.
"That tells you all you need to know about a 23-year-old who is going through the first significant injury of his life, and the only thing that matters to him right now is winning and staying a part of this team," Epstein told reporters, as quoted by cubs.com. "That says a lot. Twenty-four hours ago, I thought we were really well-positioned to win in large part because of Kyle's presence on the team, and now we're really well-positioned to win for Kyle."