Cubs

Kris Bryant bounces back at the plate in second career game

kris-bryant-cubs-0418.png

Kris Bryant bounces back at the plate in second career game

Kris Bryant's major league debut had everybody freaking out.

While most were simply giddy with excitement over the arrival of baseball's top prospect on the North Side, some panicked after just one day of results — or rather lack thereof — at the plate. Bryant went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first big league game.

While a few might have lamented that the sky was falling, Bryant preached taking it easy. It was just one day.

That message proved fortuitous after his second major league game, in which he went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, an RBI and three walks.

[MORE CUBS: Castro helps Cubs walk off vs. Padres: A trend in the making?]

Yes, Bryant reached base five times after his less-than-ideal debut, certainly quelling any worries that he's anything but as advertised.

“Everybody’s looking for hits all the time. We always look for good at-bats, being a good decision-maker. He was that today," manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs' 7-6, extra-inning victory over the visiting San Diego Padres. "And then he gets the big knock — broken bat, we’ll take it — against a really tough right-handed pitcher.

"I think the fans, the folks that really watch closely, they understand the importance of accepting your walk. … I think after yesterday, it was kind of engrained in his mind that, ‘I’m not going to do that again.’ He had some really good at-bats. He went 0-2 to 4-2 one at-bat, and that’s spectacular.”

Bryant reached via the walk in his first two plate appearances Saturday before collecting his first major league hit: a broken-bat blooper to shallow center field, a hit that drove in a run to tie the game at 2 in the fifth. Another walk came later on, and he was right in the middle of the game-winning rally in the bottom of the 11th, busting down the first-base line to hustle out an infield single. Two batters later, Starlin Castro delivered the walk-off winner.

It was as refreshing a sign as Cubs fans could have imagined following what happened Friday.

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Kris Bryant jersey right here]

No one was really worried that an 0-for-4 debut was some kind of gloomy omen for what's expected to be a promising career. But take it from someone who's been under the North Side microscope before, getting off to a good start certainly helps.

“It’s not easy for him on the first day. Millions of people waiting for you, it’s not easy," Castro said. "He did a great job today. He took three walks and then two basehits, it’s awesome.

“It’s a really good game for him. I think he got his confidence back because he got a hit. When you come up first in the big leagues, you get a hit right away, you can have your confidence right away. Now he’ll be really better.”

The bottom line is, as it seemingly always is, that the baseball season is a long one. One day doesn't matter too much in the grand scheme of a season and especially not in the grand scheme of a career, of which Bryant's is just two days old. Day 2 went much better at the plate than Day 1 did. The Cubs are expecting many more of those good days from Bryant from here on out.

“He did a really good job," catcher Miguel Montero said. "Obviously we know he’s got talent, we just need to take a little bit of pressure off his shoulders. He’s still a young kid, and he’s got all the talent in the world. He’s going to be good. We just need to ask you guys to leave it alone a little bit. Let him have fun out there. But yeah, he did an amazing job. He took three walks, and we all know he can hit. So obviously we’re not worried about him.”

 

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

darvish.jpg
USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

kipnis-1030.jpg
USA TODAY

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”