Cubs

Cubs feel comfortable unleashing Kris Bryant after ankle injury

Cubs feel comfortable unleashing Kris Bryant after ankle injury

Kris Bryant's ankle is feeling so well, even Sunday's wet and chilly conditions couldn't keep him out of the lineup.

Bryant rolled his right ankle running the bases in Thursday's game and sat out Friday's contest. But an MRI showed just a mild issue and Saturday's rainout helped minimize Bryant's time on the shelf.

Bryant tested his ankle on the slick outfield grass Sunday morning and felt so good, Joe Maddon wrote out Sunday's lineup with the 2015 Rookie of the Year in left field with Tommy La Stella at third base.

"It wasn't terrible," Bryant said. "I've dealt with a lot worse. ... I didn't think much of it. I'm fine. It's good to be out there. Maybe the weather made it a little worse than it was. I feel good."

The Cubs chose to play it safe with Bryant after already covering for the losses of Kyle Schwarber and Miguel Montero in the lineup, but after Sunday's pregame "test," it was all systems go.

"I think that was their concern - if I could run down some balls out there," Bryant said. "I felt fine. I'm going through all the routes and stuff like that. Everything is good to go."

Maddon was open to the possibility Friday of calling upon Bryant to pinch-hit late in the game if he felt up to it, but no such situation arose.

The Cubs manager was intially expecting to be without Bryant for the entire weekend, eyeing a return Monday night in Pittsburgh.

"I didn't know," Maddon said. "I really thought maybe by [Monday] would've been more than likely, but he was adament that he feels great. The training staff said, 'He's fine. Go for it. Don't worry about it.' I'm just following both of those groups with KB saying himself."

Bryant said he's had ankle issues in the past and was in the habit of taping his ankles for every game. But he actually didn't have his ankles taped for a couple games because he had been feeling so good.

Cubs nation can breathe a sigh of relief that the injury was not more serious, so now all Bryant can do is shrug his shoulders and laugh it off.

"Of course something happens [the game I don't tape my ankles] so the baseball gods are telling me to continue to tape my ankle," he said. "Lesson learned."

Bryant has been seeing a lot of time in left field lately with Javy Baez back from the disabled list, La Stella (.400 AVG, 1.203 OPS) mashing and Jorge Soler off to a slow start (.193 AVG, .610 OPS).

Bryant still said he prefers third base, but he's feeling more and more comfortable and confident in the outfield.

Maddon loves Bryant's defense at third base, but considers him a utility guy more so because of the situation the team is in with Schwarber lost for the season and Baez/La Stella adept at third base.

"It's a matter of fitting all the pieces in and then re-shuffling it game-in-progress," Maddon said.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

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USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.