Cubs

Cubs, Kris Bryant say there’s no bad blood after service-time issue

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Cubs, Kris Bryant say there’s no bad blood after service-time issue

Kris Bryant buried the disappointment of not making the team in Arizona.

“I don’t think about the past at all,” Bryant said Friday at Wrigley Field. “I’m here now. And I’m ready to play some ball.”

That’s exactly what the Cubs want to hear. Anyone inside the interview room/dungeon expecting a sarcastic comment – or any public hints of bitterness – doesn’t know Bryant.

The media circus followed Bryant, who sat at the podium before his big-league debut and looked out at the row of six TV cameras, inside a cramped cellar filled with about 40 media types. The dream-come-true vibes felt different than the it’s-just-business rhetoric from spring training.

[MORE CUBS: The wait is over - Kris Bryant arrives at Wrigley Field]

Super-agent Scott Boras ripped Cubs ownership and again questioned the Ricketts family’s commitment to winning. The players’ union called it a “bad day for baseball” when the Cubs sent Bryant down to minor-league camp. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told Boras to stay out of the team’s business. Bryant Watch became a trending topic on Twitter.

The Cubs needed Bryant to miss at least 12 days from the major-league calendar in order to gain an extra year of control and kick his free agency down the road, until after the 2021 season. Bryant missed exactly 12 days – while the Cubs went 5-3 and surged into first place – and did his time at Triple-A Iowa.

“I sure hope I can look back on this and laugh at it 15 years from now,” Bryant said. “That would be a pretty good situation for myself. But like I said, it’s all in the past. I did what I needed to do.

“I took what happened to me and I went down there and played as hard as I can. And that’s all I can really do. I had fun with it. I’m embracing every moment that I get in this game, because I know that I’m not going to be playing this game forever.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs see Addison Russell as the next big prospect on the verge]

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted there’s no bad blood between the two sides, recognizing Boras is just doing his job and seeing Bryant as a franchise player.

“There is no service-time issue,” Epstein said. “He’s here to play baseball. The major-league team had a need. He’s a really good player. He’s ready to go.

“He’s ready to be a Cub for a long time.”

Epstein won’t get into the financial implications, but he said injuries factored into the timing of Bryant’s promotion. Third baseman Mike Olt saw a specialist on Thursday and an MRI revealed a hairline fracture in his right wrist. Infielder Tommy La Stella (rib cage) had already been put on the disabled list.

“No, we wouldn’t have done it today (otherwise),” Epstein said. “You script things out for a player’s development, try to figure out exactly what the last steps are in his development, when the exact right time is to debut.

“We like to do it on the road for prominent players who are going to get a lot of attention and have enough to deal with. So we would have done it a little bit later. But you can’t script everything out in baseball.

“It’s a great day and we hope the start of something special.”

[SHOP: Get your Kris Bryant jersey right here]

Bryant’s father, Mike, couldn’t miss the frustration after his son hit nine homers in 40 Cactus League at-bats – after being the industry’s consensus minor league player of the year in 2014.

“He was disappointed,” said Mike, who once played in the Boston Red Sox farm system. “I didn’t talk to him for three days after that, (but) he handled it. It’s not that he was expecting it. He blocked out that part of the process right there.

“He was not focused on any business part of the game. You remove that from the equation as a baseball player. You cannot think about it. Otherwise, it’s just a distraction.”

Boras Corp. will probably get four bites at arbitration and should be drooling at the idea of Bryant hitting the open market. But almost seven years is an eternity in this game, more than enough time for the Cubs, Bryant and Boras to get what they want.

As Bryant said, he wants a bulldog working for him, not a poodle. This won’t be the last time the Cubs will be sparring with Boras.

“I’m glad he’s on my side,” Bryant said.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: