ST. LOUIS – Kris Bryant makes Joe Maddon’s job so much easier and helps the rest of the Cubs look good. It goes far beyond being a 30-homer, 100-RBI force and a smiling face of the franchise.
This is an All-Star third baseman who moves to second base on defensive shifts, plays all over the outfield and subs in as the backup first baseman. Even at 6-foot-5, Bryant is still athletic enough to play shortstop for a few innings when needed.
That combination turned Bryant into the National League’s 2015 Rookie of the Year and reigning MVP and gives the Cubs so many in-game options and insurance policies for the roster.
The Cubs will feel it when Bryant stands in Busch Stadium’s visiting dugout and admits a stomach illness has gotten worse, like he did on Friday night, forcing Maddon to scribble changes onto the lineup card.
“The ‘Swiss Bryant Knife’ is just unavailable,” Maddon said before Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “He is that good.”
This comes at a time when Bryant is hitting .299 and leading the team in homers (seven) and OPS (.949) and the Cubs are banged up and struggling to gain traction above .500. But not even Bryant’s versatility could cover all these issues: Addison Russell’s sore shoulder, Ben Zobrist’s stiff back, Jon Jay’s back spasms and Jason Heyward on the disabled list.
Bryant doesn’t have a snarling personality and rarely shows his emotions on or off the field. But there’s an overlooked or underrated toughness to his game. This is someone who played in: 151 out of 154 possible games after his service-time wait at Triple-A Iowa in April 2015; 155 games last season; and six postseason rounds before his 25th birthday.
“You could see something kicking his butt,” Maddon said. “I don’t know exactly virus-wise, whatever it is, but he was hurting. Even just to eat – holding food down was not comfortable. The best I think we can hope for (on Sunday) is coming off the bench.”