Cubs

Worth the wait: Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut

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Worth the wait: Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut

The wait is over.

The Cubs are promoting Kris Bryant from Triple-A Iowa, according to a source familiar with the situation, and will unveil their biggest prospect on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field against James Shields and the San Diego Padres.

“Today I got to tell my family that my dream is coming true,” Bryant posted on his personal Twitter account late Thursday night. “Can’t really put into words what that feels like. So excited for this journey!”

So ends Bryant Watch, an entertaining back-and-forth involving super-agent Scott Boras, the Major League Baseball Players Association, commissioner Rob Manfred, Theo Epstein’s front office and what seemed like just about anyone with a Twitter account.

It got to the point near the end of spring training where $155 million Opening Day starter Jon Lester could get a Bryant question and say: “That’s not my decision. That’s above my pay grade.”

[Kris Bryant Tracker: The wait is over]

The timing certainly works for the Cubs, exactly crossing off the 12 days needed to gain an extra year of club control over Bryant, who can now play almost seven full seasons on the North Side before becoming a free agent after the 2021 campaign.

It’s just business. Boras Corp. will never forget that.

But baseball reasons also forced the issue now with Bryant, Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect. Third baseman Mike Olt is heading to the disabled list after an MRI revealed a hairline fracture of his right wrist, a team source said Thursday night.

What if Olt hadn’t been drilled by a 96-mph fastball last weekend at Coors Field? Infielder Tommy La Stella (rib cage) is already on the disabled list and the Cubs have been scrambling for third-base options.

Ideally, the Cubs probably would have liked to see Bryant, 23, debut on the road, in less of a circus atmosphere. (Think next week in Pittsburgh.) But these circumstances appear to have accelerated the timeline and provided some cover. Too bad the Wrigley Field bleachers aren’t open yet.

This lineup should get a jolt from Bryant, who put up 43 homers, 110 RBI and a 1.098 OPS last season in the minors. He then blasted nine homers in 40 Cactus League at-bats. But the service-time math essentially guaranteed he wouldn’t break camp with the big-league team.

[MORE: Joe Maddon will manage the great expectations for Kris Bryant]

That specific language in the collective bargaining agreement has really been the only thing that’s slowed down Bryant on his fast track to The Show.

“What I always do is put myself in the guy’s shoes,” manager Joe Maddon said as the Bryant hype escalated in spring training. “What was my brain like at that age? What was I capable of handling at that age?

“He’s got me beat by so much right now, what I would have done or how I would have been able to handle all this at that moment. It’s not easy. There’s so many things coming at you from so many different directions. I think he’s done a wonderful job.”

The Cubs drafted Bryant No. 2 overall in 2013 and gave him a $6.7 million signing bonus. At the University of San Diego, he had become a Rhodes Scholarship candidate and won the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball’s Heisman Trophy. That same year, he earned MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Bryant grew up in Las Vegas, playing with and against Bryce Harper, a future All-Star for the Washington Nationals. Bryant’s father, Mike, had played minor-league ball for the Boston Red Sox, and would teach local kids what he learned from the legendary Ted Williams: Hit your pitch. Hit it hard. Hit it in the air.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant hit a three-run homer during Thursday’s 10-7 win in New Orleans, where rain washed out the second game of a scheduled doubleheader. After the initial disappointment, he didn’t lose his edge or his focus with Iowa, hitting .321 with three homers and 10 RBI in seven games.

The Cubs went 5-3 during Bryant’s Triple-A holding pattern and are now tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central. Wrigleyville will be rocking.

With Chicago hoping for deep playoff runs from the Bulls and Blackhawks, the city is talking about baseball again, expecting a new star to arrive.

Adidas had already ramped up the marketing campaign before Opening Night, putting his image on an Addison Street billboard across from Wrigley Field, promising Bryant will be “WORTH THE WAIT.”

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: