Kris Bryant, scratched from lineup, comes off bench to homer twice

SHARE Kris Bryant, scratched from lineup, comes off bench to homer twice

LAS VEGAS — Cubs prospect Kris Bryant said the shoulder fatigue that knocked him out of the starting lineup for an exhibition game Saturday was normal stuff, no big deal.

And just in case anybody didn’t hear him the first time, he said it again when he came off the bench as the designated hitter in the third inning and drove the first pitch he saw from Oakland Athletics right-hander Jesse Hahn over the right-field wall for a two-run home run.

Bryant emphasized the point with another homer three innings later, this time to left-center on a 2-2 pitch. That set off another loud ovation from the more than 10,000 hometown fans, some of whom were family members and friends.

‘‘He’s feeling all right,’’ Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks said. ‘‘Obviously.’’

Bryant, the No. 1 prospect in baseball on multiple preseason lists, said it was only a precaution that he was scratched from his scheduled start at third base. He said he expects to be ready to play in the field again as soon as Sunday.

The sooner, the better for Bryant. He has less than three weeks left to make his case that having his bat in the lineup in April trumps any service-time issues for a Cubs team that says it’s trying to win.

Bryant’s big day, which accounted for all the Cubs’ runs in a 3-1 victory, gave him two two-homer games in three days and a major-league-leading six homers in eight spring games. He’s 9-for-20 (.450) with eight RBI and a 1.400 slugging percentage.

Hendricks, the second-year starter who had his own big day with five perfect innings, said he’s amazed at what Bryant does.

‘‘We all are,’’ said Hendricks, who downplayed his 54-pitch effort in his second spring game. ‘‘I’d rather hit two home runs any day than pitch five perfect [innings], I know that. But I’ll take what I did.’’

Whether Bryant opens the season at Class AAA Iowa (as expected) or in the majors, his teammates’ expectations for him already seem to be as high as those of the fans. Left-hander Eric Jokisch called both homers from the bench just before they were launched.

‘‘It’s not hard,’’ Jokisch said. ‘‘When it’s, like, 100 percent of the time, it’s not hard at all.’’

Bryant didn’t have a chance to hit a third one. He walked in his final trip to the plate.

Bryant, who graduated from nearby Bonanza High School, had a sizable personal cheering section on both days of the Cubs’ Las Vegas series against the A’s.

‘‘When I went into the game, I was like, ‘I just need to get a hit for the hometown,’ ’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Turned out being a really good game. It’s good to get the crowd into it and hit one for my family and friends here.’’

Or two.

‘‘Just a really cool day for me,’’ he said.

Next up is getting back in the field and proving that he’s a big-league defensive player. And back to trying to make it hard on the Cubs to send him back to the minors.

He emphasized the shoulder discomfort is “normal fatigue” and “normal wear and tear.”

He had some throwing issues the first week of camp, and acknowledged the shoulder started bothering him late in the week, about the time he made his second throwing error of the spring Thursday against the Angels.

“That’s still no excuse for a bad throw,” he said. “That was on me.”

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