MESA, Ariz. — Joe Maddon might have baseball’s best third-base prospect, but he claims he doesn’t have third basemen. Or second basemen, for that matter. Rather, he has players who are willing to move to different positions without complaint.
“You get guys and players in some spots that would be averse to that because, ‘I’m a third baseman,’ or ‘I’m a second baseman,’” the manager said Sunday. “But our guys are willing to play in different spots.”
And yes, that includes Kris Bryant.
Maddon plans to follow up on his February promise to give Bryant — and fellow third baseman Mike Olt —turns in the outfield. He’s yet to pick a date, but will soon.
“We’ll get them out there,” he said.
Bryant didn’t play anywhere Sunday — and might not Monday, either — while he rests a fatigued right throwing shoulder. The Cubs believe “it’s not anything serious” and are being cautious, the manager said.
“He’s going to get a day or two off,” Maddon said, “even though he doesn’t want one.”
After Saturday, why would he? After the shoulder caused Bryant to be scratched from Saturday’s third-base start, he came off the bench as a designated hitter and hit two home runs in his hometown of Las Vegas.
“He’s very unassuming, in a way,” Maddon said. “He’s not overstated. The statements come from his play. He’s not a big talker. He’s very confident. He’s not gonna back away from the fact that he is good —and he knows he’s good. But he’s not going to go out there and beat a drum about it.”
It figures to take more than another dramatic homecoming for Bryant to start the season with the big club. Spending the first few weeks of season in the minors would give the Cubs an extra year of control.
Bryant said Friday he’s “just trying to make it hard on them” to send him down. Left field doesn’t offer a faster path to stardom, necessarily. Rather, Maddon values versatility as much as any manager in the Majors. Last year with the Rays, he started Swiss Army Knife Ben Zobrist seven or more times at five different spots.
Arismendy Alcantara could serve that role this season, but if Bryant is merely playable in the outfield, Maddon could use the weapon.
“I hate looking out from the dugout, and you scan the field and you think, ‘I hope the ball’s not hit there,’” Maddon said. “That really bums me out. Because it’s going to be hit there.
“When you’re moving people around, you still want to feel strong about how this defense is going to play.”
Versatility, he said, allows players to rest up for during the long season.
Bryant, perhaps more than any other player, will have a hand in whether the Cubs play meaningful games into the fall.
“Our guys are young, but they still need rest,” Maddon said. “And if you’re going to play well at the end of the season, you need to take care of them early.”