In the second inning of tonight’s ongoing game against the Diamondbacks, this happened:
Early reports from beat writers at the game suggest that Schwarber’s initial x-rays came back negative, but that he has been diagnosed with an ankle sprain. An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow. For now, that’s about as good as things could possibly get for the Cubs, though it’s always possible that the MRI will turn up structural or ligament damage that could keep Schwarber out for some time. As it is, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t hit the disabled list for some period of time. What are the implications for the Cubs? Before we talk about that, remember that the first priority is Schwarber’s health, and that’s the most important thing here. Still, there are roster implications, and while we don’t know anything solid about Schwarber’s health yet, we can talk through those implications.
The Cubs were about to face a major roster crunch, as Javier Baez was likely to return from the disabled list in the next ten days or so, forcing either Matt Szczur or Neil Ramirez—both currently out of options—off the roster. As things stand now, though you’d certainly never plan things out this way, Baez may be able to return sometime after the home opener without displacing anyone, as Schwarber would essentially take his place on the disabled list.
For the next few days, then, until Baez can return, a backup player will probably come up from Iowa—maybe a catcher, like Tim Federowicz, but more likely an outfielder like John Andreoli, or a jack-of-all-trades like Munenori Kawasaki or Arismendy Alcantara (the latter two are on the 40-man already, which would save the team a roster move and makes them possibly the most likely group of all, with Kawasaki taking precedence given Alcantara’s still-present struggles). Matt Murton would probably have been an option over Andreoli if the team wanted to go for an outfielder, but he’s currently on the 7-day disabled list, and so may not be available to fill in. (Shane Victorino is, as far as I know, still in extended spring training and may not be available for game action.) Once Baez is back, in any event, that player would almost certainly go back down.
If Schwarber has to go on the 60-day disabled list, it’s not worth talking about who’d replace him long-term on the roster right now; there’s too much uncertainty there, and we’ll cross that bridge if the Cubs come to it. If he’s on the 15-day, it’s probably the same discussion as we’re having now about Baez’s return, where the men on the chopping block are Szczur and Ramirez (I suspect Ramirez will get bumped, but that’s just a guess). And if, by some miracle, Schwarber is able to take things day-to-day, perhaps no player needs to move off the roster until Baez himself returns in the coming days. For now, we wait and see. And hope the MRI turns up nothing too serious.
UPDATE: From the Cubs’ beat writer Carrie Muskat, the MRI will include the knee. That’s worrying, though it’s probably just due diligence. If it comes back clean, you can start to breathe a bit.
More on #Cubs Schwarber: The MRI on Friday will include his left knee
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 8, 2016
UPDATE 2 (Friday morning): Schwarber seemed in relatively good spirits after the game last night, all things considered. “Can’t get mad about playing hard and getting hurt,” he said, quoted by numerous beats. “Rather play hard and get hurt than play not hard and not get hurt.” He reported the knee as “tight” and “sore,” and that’s all we have until the results of the MRI are announced sometime today.
Lead photo courtesy Mark J. Rebilas—USA Today Sports.