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Cubs’ Kris Bryant ‘learning a lot about this game and this business’

MESA, Ariz. – The best performer in the majors this spring spent his afternoon Thursday in the minors, hitting another home run, drawing a pair of walks and adding a single to help his team win.

“When I’m on the field, that’s my sanctuary,” Kris Bryant said. “I’m smiling, having fun. That’s all I can do.

“But stuff like this, coming off the field, thinking about it more, that’s when it kind of hits me.”

The Cubs’ third-base prospect – the top-ranked prospect in the game – knew the likelihood that the Cubs would find any and every reason to start him in the minors this year to shave off enough service time to preserve an additional year of club control.

But after hitting .425 with a major-league leading nine homers this spring – and a 1.652 OPS – the news Monday still hit hard.

Three days later he was still reluctant to talk much about it.

“I’m disappointed,” said Bryant, who must spent at least 12 days in the minors to assure he won’t become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season. “I think I did all I could. I really tried as hard as I could. I woke up every day excited to come to the field. I still do. I think there’s a lot to be excited about, as a Cubs fan, as a Cubs player. I’m just disappointed I don’t get that opportunity to do it at the beginning of the year. But I’ll be cheering them on.”

Team president Theo Epstein pointed out he’s never in 13 years as a top executive had a young prospect make his big-league debut on an opening roster (with the exception of Rule 5 players) and listed several baseball reasons in sending Bryant back to AAA to start the season.

Bryant’s agent Scott Boras railed publicly about the decision as an integrity-of-the-game issue, and the players’ union went so far as to threaten litigation.

Bryant, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2013, said he has no hard feelings about it.

“I’m just disappointed. I really wanted my performance in spring to matter,” he said. “I just felt like it didn’t matter as much as it did to me. It’s nothing to hang my head about. I think I did well. I think I handled myself well. I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

“There are a lot of positives for me to take from it,” he added. “I’m learning a lot about this game and this business, and I think I’ll grow from it.”