Put me in coach: Cubs’ Bryant can play CF -- maybe next year

SHARE Put me in coach: Cubs’ Bryant can play CF -- maybe next year

“Third baseman” Kris Bryant makes a leaping catch against the right field wall in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Could be the Cubs’ center fielder next season?

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is getting so comfortable moving rookie Kris Bryant from position to position on the field that he started him at first base Monday without knowing if he’d played there before.

By the end of Monday night’s 1-0, 11-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals, he had also played center field, right field and third base.

Could those two innings in center field be a sneak peek at next year’s Opening Day lineup.

Maddon didn’t rule it out.

And it’s not as far-fetched as it might sound.

The Cubs could be in the market for at least a short-term fix at center next season, with Dexter Fowler’s free agency looming and prospects such as Albert Almora still a year or more away.

Bryant has played five positions this season: all three outfield spots and the corner infield spots.

“And I don’t doubt that he could play shortstop,” Maddon mused of the rookie whose appearance for

Center field to start next season?

“I feel comfortable with him anywhere,” Maddon said, comparing him to ultra-versatile Ben Zobrist – Maddon’s Swiss-army fielder for seven years with the Rays. “I can see him as a starting third baseman. Probably after [Monday] we believe he can be a starting first baseman. Any outfield position he could start and you would feel you’re covered above average defensively, and you could win with this guy.”

Maddon can’t predict where Bryant will be defensively next Opening Day, he said.

“You can put him anywhere,” he said. “He is a good baseball player. He is the best base runner on the team – probably him and Javy [Baez], for pure instincts and speed and ability. And defensively I’m comfortable with him anywhere.”

Monday’s starting assignment was about filling in for Anthony Rizzo, who got his first day off since early July.

But shuttling Bryant to three other positions seamlessly, throughout a game that wound up a victory, seemed to fire up the manager.

“He was all over the map. That’s the beauty of it,” Maddon said. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

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