Gotta Squat Before You Can Squat: Schwarber Lifting, Hoping to Get Some Winter Ball At-Bats and Catch Again

“I’ve got a long way to go.”

That was Kyle Schwarber’s assessment of his progress from surgery to repair the knee he blew out in only his second game of the season. He’s been doing jogging drills with a little cutting since early September and says he feels good about the stability of the reconstructed joint, but there’s still the slightest uncertainty there.

“I want to get back to that point where it’s 50-50 on each side now and not just 60-40,” Schwarber said, referring to the strength and flexibility of his knees. As anyone who’s suffered an injury can tell you, the body’s natural tendency to compensate can make things much worse if you push too hard before you’re fully healed. That’s particularly important in this case, as last year’s postseason hero has been steadfast in his desire to return to his duties in the outfield and behind the plate next season.

The emergence of Willson Contreras obviously puts a bit of a monkey wrench in that scenario, though the retirement of David Ross opens up some additional playing time in the backup capacity in which Schwarber had served last season. Has there been a more dynamic catching duo than WillCo and War Bear? The one that comes to mind immediately is Mike Piazza and Randy Hundley’s son with the Mets in ’98, but the former had a pretty rough go of it in that one season together. Yeah, I guess there wasn’t much dynamism there.

There’s still a lot that needs to happen before this new pairing can become a reality, though. The Cubs’ recovering slugger is going to have to crawl before he can walk, as the old saying goes, which could mean taking some cuts in winter ball before getting back in earnest during Spring Training. I’ve got to imagine any competitor would jump at the chance to get back into live game action, no matter what the level of play or the venue, and it sounds like War Bear’s chomping at the bit to get going again.

Schwarber’s been doing daily rehab work while remaining around his teammates, a benefit of the newly remodeled clubhouse that’s outfitted with state-of-the-art training and recovery equipment. David Ross has seen the progress in his young charge and is impressed with the work being put in.

“There’s some serious strength going on. I joke with him that he can squat 245 but can’t take batting practice. You can’t even tell he was hurt,” the team grandpa said recently.

I guess you’ve got to squat before you can squat, as the new saying goes. Absent context, a dude of War Bear’s stature squatting 245 lbs. wouldn’t be a very big deal. Considering his convalescent status and the inherent mental struggles involved in trusting a surgically repaired knee, however, I’d say he’s doing pretty well. In fact, I’m tempted to say he could come back better from this ordeal.

Sure, it’s going to take some time to knock the rust off. But that’ll be made easier by getting after it in the training room and working himself into peak physical condition while also spending all kinds of time in scouting meetings and the video room to strengthen his foundation.

While the focus at this point is solely on this season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about what the Cubs can do after adding Schwarber back into the mix. And regardless of how many times they say it won’t happen, I can’t help but daydream about…nah, never mind.

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