Posted on October 25, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Both the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs will receive a boost from an unexpected source for the 2016 World Series. After much speculation by both sides, the Indians have officially added pitcher Danny Salazar to their World Series roster, while the Cubs have added Kyle Schwarber, who could make an impact offensively as early as Game 1.
Salazar threw three simulated innings over the weekend, and the Indians liked what they saw enough to add him to the World Series roster, despite the fact that he has not pitched in a game since September 9. “I got really excited,” Salazar said about pitching coach Mickey Calloway telling him he was being included on the roster. “I’m just really happy to be able to throw a ball without any type of soreness.”
What Cleveland has not said is whether Salazar will be used as a starter or move to a relief role amidst uncertainty about how many pitches he’ll be able to throw after a month and a half away. The Indians have more or less mapped out their starting rotation for the first three games of the series, but from Game 4 on there is great uncertainty. Salazar could be an option for Game 4, but that would preclude the Indians from possibly using him in a relief role during the first three games.
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“After the third game we’d [like to] kind of see where we are,” explains Cleveland manager Terry Francona. “We have (Ryan) Merritt. We have Danny. Neither one would pitch a full game, but between those two, you know, especially with Danny, it gives you a guy that made the All-Star team that we could pitch really whenever we want. So, it’s another really good arm that’s kind of a wild card that we think could help us.”
Salazar reportedly had limited use of his slider during Sunday’s simulated game, but after his fastball reached 97 mph, he says his arm is ready to go. “It’s really strong,” Salazar said of his arm. “I don’t have any type of things bothering me. I feel really strong every time I go out there. Throwing the sim games, the rest in between innings, every time I was coming back, I was feeling really strong.”
The Cubs will look to counter Salazar’s presence with the return of Kyle Schwarber, who most assumed was done for the season in April when he tore ligaments in his knee. However, Schwarber healed faster than expected and after playing two games in the Arizona Fall League, the Cubs have added him to the roster. In those two games, Schwarber was 1 for 6 with a double and two walks.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein also watched Schwarber workout in Arizona on Monday via a video feed and liked what he saw. “He ran the bases before the game really well, slid, dove back in, went first to third, second to home,” Epstein said Monday. “He looked really good. He’s running pretty well. He’s saving his hits, apparently, because he keeps hitting the balls at guys.”
No decision has been made about how the Cubs will use Schwarber in the World Series, but it’s possible he’ll be used as a DH in Game 1, a possibility that has his teammates excited. “To have another young guy here who has a track record of hitting home runs, who is a threat, who, when you see his name in the lineup, there’s some scariness to that — we can’t wait to have him back,” said shortstop Addison Russell. “I’m a big Kyle Schwarber fan. I love what he does; I can’t wait until he gets here.”
What each team will get out of the return of Salazar and Schwarber remains to be seen. However, both players have a chance to be difference makers in the series and either one could turn into the ultimate X-factor in the 2016 World Series.