Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles


Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles

It can be easy to forget that Kris Bryant is just 23 years old and only in his third week in the majors.

The top prospect in the game sounds mature beyond his years whenever he talks and when asked about his recent struggles, Bryant again said all the right things.

"It's baseball, man," he said before Sunday's series finale with the Brewers. "It happens all the time. Just play the game. Have fun with it. I never look into a bad game too much."

Bryant hasn't gotten a hit in his last 10 at-bats, watching his average dip from .341 to .280. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Saturday's loss and now has whiffed 18 times in his first 15 big-league games.

[RELATED - Cubs offense hits rough patch in loss to Brewers]

"That's what happens in the major leagues," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You have to adjust. He was swinging at some pitches out of the zone [Saturday] too.

"Just get back into the zone because that's something he had been doing well coming out of spring training. He wasn't chasing.

"He's been doing really well at maintaining the integrity of the strike zone. I'm fully confident he's going to do it again."

Bryant is in his usual No. 4 spot in the Cubs lineup Sunday and said Maddon has not talked to him about the slump.

"I don't think I need to be talked to," Bryant said. "I've been through this plenty of times before. It's part of the game. It's a hard game. The ball is small, the bat is small.

"You gotta take it with a grain of salt and learn from it and that's what I'll do."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant called his slump a learning experience and said he knows he will have more rough games throughout this season and the rest of his career.

Maddon has been impressed with the way Bryant hasn't sacrificed his patient approach at the plate, for the most part. The slugger is still taking his walks - 12 on the season and four in the last four games.

With Bryant and some of the other young players like Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, Maddon has preached patience and focusing on changing their mentality rather than physical mechanics during struggles. The veteran manager understands these kids won't just figure it all out overnight.

After leading all of Major League Baseball with nine spring training homers and pacing professional baseball with 43 in the minors last season, Bryant is still without a longball in his first 15 games, spanning 50 at-bats now.

[MORE - Maddon, Cubs trying to 'unearth' Soler with lineup switch]

Cubs fans are getting impatient for Bryant's first homer, especially now that fellow rookie Russell hit his first Friday at Wrigley Field.

But don't point to that home run drought as a reason for Bryant's struggles.

"I don't necessarily see him trying too hard right now," Maddon said. "For the most part, he's been accepting his walks and working good at-bats.

"If it's really bothering him, I'm not really seeing it. But I do believe the moment he does, it will relax him a bit more. Get the monkey off his back."

For his part, Bryant insists he's not pressing at the plate, either.

"I could go the whole season without hitting a home run, as long as we're winning games," he said. "Right now, we're doing pretty good, so we'll see.

"But I know the type of player I am and like I said, it's a percentage game with me. I hit home runs and I'm due. Yesterday, I was due for a bad game. It happens."

Cubs' David Ross' plan for weekend off: watch baseball, hang out with his dog

Cubs' David Ross' plan for weekend off: watch baseball, hang out with his dog

The Cubs have a few unforeseen days off from playing after several new Cardinals tested positive for COVID-19 this week. 

With this weekend’s series in St. Louis postponed, the Cubs returned to Chicago, where they’ll remain until heading to Cleveland on Tuesday morning. They have a light workout scheduled for pitchers on Saturday and a simulated game scheduled on Sunday.

What will Cubs manager David Ross be doing otherwise with no games scheduled, though?

“Me personally, it’s just sitting on my couch with my dog and watching baseball and highlights and catching a game,” Ross said Saturday.

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Cleveland is coincidentally in town this weekend, facing the White Sox on the South Side. Ross has the opportunity to get an early look at the Indians ahead of their two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday. They're playing on Sunday Night Baseball this week in place of the Cubs and Cardinals.

“We’ll definitely have baseball on, try to get a nice meal delivered and just hang out with myself. I’m pretty awesome by myself,” Ross said with a smile.


Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Why Cubs-Cards COVID-19 postponement raises heat on MLB, ethics questions

Millions of Americans have lost jobs or taken pay cuts because of the economic impact of a coronavirus pandemic that in this country shows no signs of going away anytime soon, including countless members of the sports media.

So despite some of the more laughably ignorant opinions from the dimmer corners of social media, exactly nobody in the media wants any sport to shut down again.

That said, what the hell are we doing playing games outside of a bubble during the deadliest pandemic in this country in more than 100 years?

With Friday's news that another Cardinals staff member and two more players tested positive in the past two days for COVID-19, the Cubs-Cards weekend series was postponed as officials scrambled to test and retest Cardinals personnel and try to get their season restarted.

The Cubs, who have not had a player test positive since the intake process began in June, have done everything right, from management to the last player on the roster, to keep their team healthy and playing.

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But the operative, most overlooked, word in all of this has always been “playing.”

And the longer MLB pushes through outbreaks, and measures the season’s viability in counting cases instead of the risk of a catastrophic outcome for even one player, the deeper its ethical dilemma in this viral cesspool.

“Ethically, I have no problem saying we’re going to keep doing this,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said over the weekend about asking players to continue working as the league experienced outbreaks involving the Marlins and Cardinals.

“That said, we have to do it the right way,” Hoyer said, citing the extra lengths the Cubs have taken to keep players and staff safe.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

But even he and other team executives understand the limits of all the best-made plans.

“The infection is throughout the country. That’s the reality,” team president Theo Epstein said. “If you’re traveling around, there’s a real risk. Protocols are not perfect. No set of protocols are perfect. They’re designed to minimize the risk as best you possibly can.”

And while the odds for surviving the virus favor young, athletic people such as baseball players, the nearly 160,000 Americans killed by COVID-19 in the last five months include otherwise healthy toddlers, teens and young adults.

Add that to the best-known characteristic of this virus — its wildfire-like ability to spread within a group — and baseball’s attempt to stage a two-month season involving travel in and out of 30 locales starts to look like Russian roulette.

Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez, 27, contracted COVID-19 last month and as a result developed myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart — that might shut him down for the season even after multiple tests say he’s clear of the virus.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, a fit, 39-year-old, recent major-league athlete, had a monthlong case so severe he went to the emergency room at one point for treatment before the viral pneumonia and high fever began to improve.

The vast majority of players insist they want to play, including Rodríguez, even after his heart diagnosis. More than 20 others have opted out because of the risk, including All-Stars Buster Posey, David Price and — in the past week — Lorenzo Cain and Yoenis Céspedes.

Obviously the owners want to play, with more than $1 billion in recouped revenues at stake in a season of deep financial losses.

“Everyone that I know outside of baseball who’s become positive, who’s gotten COVID-19 at some point, did everything right — washed their hands, wore masks, socially distanced — and they still became positive,” Epstein said. “They don’t know where. It could have been the grocery store. It could have been walking down the street.

“And as far as I know that’s the case inside baseball, too,” he added. “This is everywhere in the country and unfortunately going the wrong direction nationwide. It’s a fraught environment out there that we’re operating in, and we’re going to need to do our absolute best and also be fortunate.”