Kris Bryant is here.
(This message is for those who hadn’t noticed the earth has tilted from Iowa toward Chicago.)
And let me say this, with arms wide open: Welcome to Cubdom, young man!
The 23-year-old third baseman came flying in before the game Friday at Wrigley Field, from down there in the swamps where his Class AAA Iowa team had beaten the New Orleans Zephyrs on Thursday night and he hit a home run. (That homer was approximately his 10,000th in the minor leagues.)
And before you knew it, the most heralded Cubs rookie hitter since — hmm, Ernie Banks? — had struck out three times and grounded out in four at-bats, with the Cubs losing a winnable game to the Padres 5-4.
Bryant’s batting average, hits, stolen bases, sacrifice flies, total bases, RBI, OBP, BB, SLG and MVP votes in the majors all stand at zero.
“You want to hit four home runs in one at-bat,’’ he said after the game of his early excitement.
He’s a very nice kid, with sky blue eyes, long eyelashes, well-spoken.
But you half-wanted to say, forget the homers, young ’un, an infield single would have worked.
Despite all the ups of Bryant’s career, and he’s had a bundle — 2013 collegiate national player of the year, Cubs 2013 first-round pick, 2014 Arizona Fall League MVP, 2014 minor-league player of the year, Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect for 2015 — he’s had some downs.
The biggest was being left off the opening roster this season after leading everyone in home runs in spring training.
But he handled that well, even if his agent, Scott Boras, did not. But you can’t blame Boras for complaining about what we all knew to be true: Bryant would stay down in the boonies at least until 12 days had passed and the Cubs could thus control his rights for one more year.
We knew Bryant would be brought up, especially with the Cubs’ third-base position in disarray. But many of us didn’t think it would be just hours after that 12th day arrived. You know, just so the charade wouldn’t be so obvious.
But the call-up, in its breathless drama and final futility, was appropriate.
Indeed, Bryant got a full dose of Cubness, playing with the big-league team one day and watching it fall out of first place.
He spoke of the fineness of the moment, the opening scene, it seems certain, to a very good — maybe stellar —career.
“It was more than I ever could imagine, for them to believe in me that much,’’ he said of the Cubs fans cheering him as if Babe Ruth had walked out of the dormant vines in center field and dug in at the plate. He also was speaking of the Cubs brass that had brought him up from the bushes.
In fact, he really hasn’t said a wrong thing since the light focused on him as the main part of the Cubs’ rebuilding plan.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life,’’ he said, adding that he has been playing baseball since “I was 4 years old.’’
In those 19 years, though, he never has played in a game where the ball got stuck in the vines (ground-rule double for teammate Dexter Fowler), or his new manager got thrown out of the game (Joe Maddon, for arguing a non-strike call), or his first three at-bats ended with underwhelming swings at nasty stuff from a big-time pitcher like James Shields.
What Bryant did really well, surprisingly, was field the ball. His work at third included a terrific diving catch of a line drive to his right in the fifth inning, a swift-handed stab of another liner for a double play with the infield pulled in in the ninth and several solid pickups and throws to first base.
For the game, he had six assists and two putouts. Those were nice stats, but it wasn’t his fielding that brought him to the bigs. It’s taters. Dingers. Blasts.
He did get to see partially demolished Wrigley Field in its non-glory. He could look at himself on that big left-field video board, and he could see the unfinished, empty bleachers.
“It was different,’’ he said of that view, before adding, “Obviously, I haven’t played in many stadiums where people are sitting in the outfield.’’
Not down on the farm. But this is the bigs.
And here’s hoping Bryant belongs.
“Believe me,’’ Maddon said. “He’s going to be fine.’’
K as in Kris? Just a few HR’s will end that.