Ed. note: It has been confirmed that Schwarber did make the trip to OKC with the I-Cubs.
After a slow start in his return to AAA, Kyle Schwarber has been tearing the cover off the ball and is displaying the blend of patient aggressiveness he was sent down to rediscover. He appears to have adopted a change in his pre-swing setup, which may have contributed to the results. Seeing him hit four homers in two games and cut down on the early strikeouts — which may have been due in part to the new look — has people buzzing about a return to Chicago.
But isn’t that a little soon? I mean, he only reported on June 25 and has only played in nine games thus far. With the Cubs off after an 11-game road swing and Iowa headed out to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the timing certainly works out. And yet…
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) July 3, 2017
Birch went on to say in a subsequent tweet that he would be surprised (not shocked, but surprised) to see Schwarber making the trip to OKC. And then we’ve got this from Ryan Davis of FanRag Sports and The Sporting News (and formerly of Cubs Insider).
Updating on Schwarber: I've been told "nothing has changed" in the plans so far, still "very likely" he returns to Chicago tomorrow.
— Ryan Davis (@RyanQDavis) July 3, 2017
Interesting. Let’s see if we can’t maybe connect a few dots here and see what will be happening. We know that an optioned player has to spend at least 10 days in the minors (unless he’s coming back to fill a spot opened by a DL stint) and that Schwarber was sent down on Thursday, June 22, which was 12 days ago. Since the clock starts on a player’s report date, though, Schwarber would need to wait until Wednesday, July 5 to exceed 10 days.
Now here’s the part where we need to employ a little guesswork. Schwarber, who’s getting in some additional BP with hitting coordinator Andy Haines as I type this, could play for the I-Cubs Monday night and then head to Chicago either after the game or on Tuesday morning. Because he’ll have just gotten in, and because he won’t be eligible outside of a DL move, the soon-to-be-recalled slugger could join his teammates in the clubhouse and watch the game as a spectator.
Having Schwarber at the game but not in uniform would be a little like tempering eggs to keep from scrambling them when you’re cooking. It also keeps him from facing Chris Archer, which is probably not the softest landing. Then again, neither is facing lanky southpaw Blake Snell (allowing a .636 OPS to lefties) in what would presumably be Schwarber’s first game back. Two of Schwarber’s Iowa homers have come against lefties, though, so maybe he’s figuring something out.
And as Jon Jay’s walkup music says so eloquently, sometimes you’ve got to go “fresh out the fryin’ pan into the fire.”
If this goes down as these folks are suggesting it will, I have to say I’m a little skeptical of the Cubs’ decisions. And that’s coming from one of the biggest War Bear honks that ever honked. I mean, everything I’ve seen and heard speaks to him having made the necessary adjustments, at least on a cursory level. But I view this whole thing kind of the same way I would an injury, which is that you want to make extra certain it’s 100 percent healed before you go trying it out.
To that end, I’m also wondering about whether and how Haines fits into this whole thing. Would the Cubs consider having him rove up to Chicago for a while to help Schwarber with the changes they’ve implemented? And are those changes even significant enough from a mechanical standpoint that they require that kind of reinforcement? Again, this goes back to my concerns with such a quick turnaround on the demotion.
To review: Schwarber is in the lineup Monday night in Iowa and signs point to him heading to Chicago by Tuesday. He will probably be with the team but will not be activated until Wednesday, barring any further injuries.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough what the plan for Schwarber really entails and whether a week and a half at AAA was really enough to reset his performance.