Kris Bryant in the outfield opens up options for Cubs


Kris Bryant in the outfield opens up options for Cubs

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.

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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.”

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

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During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.

RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week


2020 Cubs schedule features six games against White Sox: 'It’s exciting, right?'

2020 Cubs schedule features six games against White Sox: 'It’s exciting, right?'

Imagine it’s late September. The Cubs have already hosted the White Sox for three unforgettable games at Wrigley Field — fans packed the rooftops (at 25 percent capacity) around the ballpark. Now, it’s time to head to the South Side for the final series of the season, rife with playoff implications.

If the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t derail the 2020 MLB season, that scene very well could become a reality.

The Cubs regular season schedule, which MLB released Monday, features six Crosstown Classic games. The first of two series between the Chicago teams runs Aug. 21-23 at Wrigley Field. The second is penciled in for Sept. 25-27 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Both three-game series include Friday and Saturday evening games, and end with a Sunday afternoon game.

The Crosstown rivalry consumes 1/10 of the Cubs schedule this shortened season.

“It’s exciting, right?” Cubs manager David Ross said.

And quite convenient. That’s the point of a regionally-based schedule, which has the Cubs facing only NL Central and AL Central teams. While trying to limit the spread of COVID-19, that convenience becomes especially important.

“We get to sleep in our own beds at night,” Ross said of the Crosstown Classic. “We can set up things where if we need to we can work out here and drive over like you would in an Arizona spring training. There’s a lot of options that we have for us that we can do with an in-town team. I feel like that’s definitely a luxury.”

Some of those same advantages apply to the Cubs’ games at Milwaukee as well. As is the case with all their division rivals, the Cubs are scheduled to play the Brewers 10 times, including opening day at Wrigley Field on July 24.

As for their mid-September series at Milwaukee: “Players have the ability to drive up day of the game, drive back afterwards or get a car back,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of freedom and comfort in sleeping in your own bed, especially in the scenarios we’re in this year.”

The Cubs’ setup with the White Sox is mirrored over in Missouri between the Cardinals and Royals; they will also play each other six times. The Cubs will play three or four games against each of the four other teams in the AL Central. The White Sox are expected to be a stauncher opponent than the Royals, automatically giving the Cubs a tougher route through their interleague schedule.

But that’s a small price to pay for six rivalry games in Chicago.