Bryant looks good at another position he won’t play for Cubs in opener
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MESA, Ariz. — So now there are two positions Kris Bryant is good enough to play but won’t be allowed to on Opening Night.
For seven innings Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, the slugging third-base prospect looked more than capable in left field. In fact, he made one of the defensive highlights of the game to end the sixth.
Bryant caught a routine fly in deep left while moving toward center, then threw behind the runner at second for an inning-ending double play.
Bryant, who played some center field for the University of San Diego, said he was glad to get the chance to show some versatility.
“That’s a big part of my comfort zone putting him out there,” said manager Joe Maddon, who still considers Bryant a third baseman but wants him to be prepared for both spots.
Maddon didn’t have much beyond the highlight play on which to judge Bryant in left. He gathered in two singles and chased down a double without incident.
The kid with a major-league-leading nine home runs this spring doesn’t expect to be on the opening roster regardless of his performance or versatility. Spending the first two weeks in the minors assures the Cubs an additional year of club control before he’s eligible for free agency.
Bryant struck out three times — twice against Angels ace Jered Weaver — in an 0-for-4 performance that dropped his on-base-plus-slugging percentage under 2.000.
Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, took to the airwaves again Wednesday on a national broadcast to lobby for his client to make the club on the basis of the integrity of the game.
Boras called Major League Baseball “injured” if Bryant — Baseball America’s 2014 minor-league player of the year and current top-ranked prospect — opens in the minors.
“I’m staying out of that right now,” Bryant said. “I’m just letting my performance on the field speak for itself.”
If he continues to produce with more consistent at-bats against major-league pitchers, how disappointing would it be to get sent down, even knowing the likelihood and reasoning?
“It’s kind of at that point in spring training where I’m not really focusing on that right now,” said Bryant, reiterating his point about letting his performance speak for him. “And if that time comes where they have a meeting with me, we’ll see what happens. But right now, I’m still here. I’m just going out there trying to get better and improve in the areas that they want me to improve in.”
NOTE: Second baseman Javy Baez, batting leadoff for the second time in a week to force him to think more about singles and getting on base, struck out twice and singled twice Thursday. He’s 7-for-44 (.159) with three walks and 16 strikeouts overall.