SAN FRANCISCO – In what might be a Rookie of the Year season, Kris Bryant has shown surprising speed for a 6-foot-5 slugger and better-than-expected defense at third base.
Bryant wants to be known as a complete player. He’s demonstrated an unselfish attitude and remarkable poise for someone who’s basically had a target on his back from the moment he reported to spring training.
Moving Bryant to the outfield could open up even more options for the Cubs. Joe Maddon is a manager who loves versatility, playing matchups and getting creative.
Bryant made his first start in right field during Thursday’s 9-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. With center fielder Dexter Fowler banged up – and possibly unavailable against Clayton Kershaw on Friday at Dodger Stadium – Maddon moved the pieces around again.
“A little weird,” Bryant said at his locker after the game. “I felt like I went back on some balls where I should have (gone) in first, but I made all the plays.
“Wherever they want me to play, I’ll play. I’m a baseball player. I’m not a third baseman or (just) a hitter. I’m willing to do whatever.”
It’s hard to see the Cubs doing something that would move the needle like benching Starlin Castro and making Addison Russell their everyday shortstop.
But occasionally shifting Bryant to the outfield makes sense if the Cubs believe Javier Baez will strengthen their infield defense once he’s called up from Triple-A Iowa. Maddon also wants Chris Coghlan’s left-handed bat in the lineup against right-handed pitchers.
“KB runs well,” Maddon said. “I know that KB has not played there a lot. But he’s very comfortable out there and I’m very comfortable with him being out there. I know it looks awkward from the distance. But internally it’s not that bad.”
What if Castro gets hot and proves he belongs at second base? When will Jorge Soler recover from a strained oblique muscle – those injuries are always tricky – and be ready to return to right field?
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Bryant – who has already started games in center and left and played some outfield at the University of San Diego – could become an answer.
Bryant began the day with 20 homers, leading all big-league rookies in RBI (77), on-base percentage (.368), slugging percentage (.482), OPS (.850) and runs scored (71).
Maybe an offensive force could also become a defensive asset.
“There’s other ways he can (become part of the outfield),” Maddon said. “Just to try to get different bats involved against certain pitchers. You know I’m not opposed to trying to do any of that stuff. And the fact that he is so amenable and comfortable with it makes it a lot easier.”