CHICAGO — Kyle Schwarber wanted to play the field. The Chicago Cubs wanted to put him in the field. The doctors said no.
Schwarber will be relegated to pinch-hitting duty for the next three games in the World Series after doctors said Thursday it was too soon after his major left knee surgery to risk putting him in the outfield against the Cleveland Indians.
"We're going to respect the doctors," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "They're the professionals here and move forward. Kyle understands that. He wants to play, he's the ultimate gamer, but he understands that the doctor's judgment has to rule the day in this case."
Schwarber was ruled out for the year after he tore two knee ligaments in an outfield collision with Dexter Fowler in Chicago's third game of the season. But he had an encouraging checkup with Dr. Daniel Cooper on Oct. 17 in Dallas, clearing the way for a rushed return by way of the Arizona Fall League.
Schwarber served as the designated hitter for the first two games in Cleveland, going 3 for 7 with a pair of RBI singles in Chicago's series-tying victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Cubs were so excited by his success that they had what Epstein called "lengthy phone conversations" with Cooper and Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, one of the Cubs' physicians.
But Cooper and Gryzlo said they couldn't clear him for the field at this point.
"There's just too much risk in playing the outfield because of the dynamic actions involved, the instantaneous reactions, the need to cut in the outfield, the dynamic, athletic movements that are unanticipated in the outfield, your instinct in reacting to balls that just aren't the case when you're running the bases," Epstein said.
Schwarber was selected by Chicago with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft out of Indiana University. He made his major league debut last June, part of a wave of bright young talent that helped the once-downtrodden franchise blossom into one of baseball's top clubs.
The Middletown, Ohio, native hit .246 with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in 69 games last year, but really rose to prominence in the postseason. He hit .333 with a franchise-record five homers in nine playoff games, including a drive that reached the top of a Wrigley Field videoboard.
Schwarber stood in left for a short while during batting practice on Thursday, but he never took any fly balls. He had already talked to the doctors at that point.
"Deep down in my heart I really wanted to, but there's obviously the doubts of the injury," he said. "You know, it was a huge injury, and that's the facts. Not many people get this opportunity that I'm in right now, so I'm embracing this opportunity that I've got and I'm going to cheer my teammates on, and when my time comes, I'm going to be ready for that opportunity."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap