Kris Bryant may have struggled at the plate in his big-league debut, but his glovework answered a few questions about his ability at third base.
Bryant didn’t always look comfortable at third base during Cactus League play, but he made both routine and difficult pays in his debut Friday against the Padres.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon and president Theo Epstein hope Bryant can hold down the corner for the foreseeable future, instead of moving him to the outfield.
“I think this guy can stay at third base for awhile,” Epstein said before the game. “He wants to, he’s invested in it, he’s really athletic. He faces some challenges playing third because he’s 6-foot-5 ½. But he’s aware of it.”
Bryant’s height and profile project better as an outfielder, but the Cubs’ greatest need at the moment is leaving him at third. Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella, the team’s two third basemen on the Opening Day roster, are both on the disabled list.
Olt has a hairline fracture in his right wrist, and La Stella has rib cage inflammation.
Bryant saw plenty of action with his glove Friday. He started a 5-4-3 double play in the first inning for the first outs of the game.
He made a diving catch to his left to rob Derek Norris of extra bases and potentially an RBI in the fifth.
Bryant made a nice bare-handed pickup after charging a bunt by Wil Myers one batter earlier, and he made a long, hard throw across the field that was a half-step too late.
Maddon said he spoke to Bryant before his demotion in spring training to determine his preference in the field. Maddon said he was surprised to learn that Bryant enjoys playing the outfield and would be happy moving there.
“That was good to know,” Maddon said. “I didn’t know how much he liked to play the outfield. When you ask guys to do multiple things like that, part of the thing is their acceptance. Normally they play better because of that. I can see that being possible, but I think it’s really intriguing to see if he can nail down third base, too.”
It’s increasingly rare for players to remain at one position throughout their career, Epstein said.
“But the need right now is at third base,” he said, “and we’re very comfortable with his defensive abilities, how he’s working and continuing to improve.”