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Worth the wait: Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut

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Worth the wait: Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut

The wait is over.

The Cubs are promoting Kris Bryant from Triple-A Iowa, according to a source familiar with the situation, and will unveil their biggest prospect on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field against James Shields and the San Diego Padres.

“Today I got to tell my family that my dream is coming true,” Bryant posted on his personal Twitter account late Thursday night. “Can’t really put into words what that feels like. So excited for this journey!”

So ends Bryant Watch, an entertaining back-and-forth involving super-agent Scott Boras, the Major League Baseball Players Association, commissioner Rob Manfred, Theo Epstein’s front office and what seemed like just about anyone with a Twitter account.

It got to the point near the end of spring training where $155 million Opening Day starter Jon Lester could get a Bryant question and say: “That’s not my decision. That’s above my pay grade.”

[Kris Bryant Tracker: The wait is over]

The timing certainly works for the Cubs, exactly crossing off the 12 days needed to gain an extra year of club control over Bryant, who can now play almost seven full seasons on the North Side before becoming a free agent after the 2021 campaign.

It’s just business. Boras Corp. will never forget that.

But baseball reasons also forced the issue now with Bryant, Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect. Third baseman Mike Olt is heading to the disabled list after an MRI revealed a hairline fracture of his right wrist, a team source said Thursday night.

What if Olt hadn’t been drilled by a 96-mph fastball last weekend at Coors Field? Infielder Tommy La Stella (rib cage) is already on the disabled list and the Cubs have been scrambling for third-base options.

Ideally, the Cubs probably would have liked to see Bryant, 23, debut on the road, in less of a circus atmosphere. (Think next week in Pittsburgh.) But these circumstances appear to have accelerated the timeline and provided some cover. Too bad the Wrigley Field bleachers aren’t open yet.

This lineup should get a jolt from Bryant, who put up 43 homers, 110 RBI and a 1.098 OPS last season in the minors. He then blasted nine homers in 40 Cactus League at-bats. But the service-time math essentially guaranteed he wouldn’t break camp with the big-league team.

[MORE: Joe Maddon will manage the great expectations for Kris Bryant]

That specific language in the collective bargaining agreement has really been the only thing that’s slowed down Bryant on his fast track to The Show.

“What I always do is put myself in the guy’s shoes,” manager Joe Maddon said as the Bryant hype escalated in spring training. “What was my brain like at that age? What was I capable of handling at that age?

“He’s got me beat by so much right now, what I would have done or how I would have been able to handle all this at that moment. It’s not easy. There’s so many things coming at you from so many different directions. I think he’s done a wonderful job.”

The Cubs drafted Bryant No. 2 overall in 2013 and gave him a $6.7 million signing bonus. At the University of San Diego, he had become a Rhodes Scholarship candidate and won the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball’s Heisman Trophy. That same year, he earned MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Bryant grew up in Las Vegas, playing with and against Bryce Harper, a future All-Star for the Washington Nationals. Bryant’s father, Mike, had played minor-league ball for the Boston Red Sox, and would teach local kids what he learned from the legendary Ted Williams: Hit your pitch. Hit it hard. Hit it in the air.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Bryant hit a three-run homer during Thursday’s 10-7 win in New Orleans, where rain washed out the second game of a scheduled doubleheader. After the initial disappointment, he didn’t lose his edge or his focus with Iowa, hitting .321 with three homers and 10 RBI in seven games.

The Cubs went 5-3 during Bryant’s Triple-A holding pattern and are now tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central. Wrigleyville will be rocking.

With Chicago hoping for deep playoff runs from the Bulls and Blackhawks, the city is talking about baseball again, expecting a new star to arrive.

Adidas had already ramped up the marketing campaign before Opening Night, putting his image on an Addison Street billboard across from Wrigley Field, promising Bryant will be “WORTH THE WAIT.”

Jason Kipnis airs concerns over challenges players will face when MLB returns

Jason Kipnis airs concerns over challenges players will face when MLB returns

We don’t know when the 2020 MLB season will begin, only that the schedule could be tightened and shortened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baseball obviously takes a backseat to the coronavirus and flattening the curve. Whenever MLB deems it safe to return to action, the safety of fans, players and team staff members will be the upmost priority.

From purely a baseball standpoint, players will need time to ramp their training back up after a long hiatus. But even with a second quasi-spring training, players may have a hard time playing catch up, according to Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis.

In a Tuesday Instagram post, Kipnis aired some of his grievances over the challenges players will have getting back into game shape post-hiatus. 

Baseball post: First, quarantining in a cold weather city like Chicago right now ain’t exactly ideal. Every time I see anyone outside I automatically think I’m falling behind (even tho no one is doing much baseball activity right now).

I’m fortunate to have my own batting cages, if for no other reason then it gets me out of the house and keeps my body from becoming stiff as a board. My worries are that players who don’t have warm weather or access to a place to workout, are stuck without any way to 'keep up'.

Let’s say things go well and we can restart spring training. These players are expected to go from the couch to a 3 week spring and strap it on? That just screams injuries and sh**** baseball to me to be honest. Not to mention if we start back up, and someone (asymptomatic or not) tests positive. Shut it down again?

I don’t know how we’re suppose to have that many tests provided! I really do hope things get better for everyone and there’s baseball this year but these are just some of the worries creeping into my head that make me think otherwise.

Kipnis ended the post by making it clear he understands there are bigger issues to worry about right now.

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Baseball post: First, quarantining in a cold weather city like Chicago right now ain’t exactly ideal. Every time I see anyone outside I automatically think I’m falling behind (even tho no one is doing much baseball activity right now). I’m fortunate to have my own batting cages, if for no other reason then it gets me out of the house and keeps my body from becoming stiff as a board. My worries are that players who don’t have warm weather or access to a place to workout, are stuck without any way to “keep up”. Let’s say things go well and we can restart spring training. These players are expected to go from the couch to a 3 week spring and strap it on? That just screams injuries and shitty baseball to me to be honest. Not to mention if we start back up, and someone (asymptomatic or not) tests positive. Shut it down again? I don’t know how we’re suppose to have that many tests provided! I really do hope things get better for everyone and there’s baseball this year but these are just some of the worries creeping into my head that make me think otherwise. Wouldn’t mind a little Q & A in the comment section or other good points if you got them! - keep in mind, this is a baseball post! I’m completely aware there are more important things going on and health of other humans takes priority over the season! Hopefully we can still talk about other things! Just wanted to create some dialogue to kill time!

A post shared by Jason Kipnis (@jasonkipnis22) on

Those are some sound points from the Northbrook native. The issues Kipnis highlighted will be at the forefront as MLB figures out the best way for the 2020 schedule to play out, whenever that may be.

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Before Cubs, Kyle Schwarber was a high school singer, football player

Before Cubs, Kyle Schwarber was a high school singer, football player

Kyle Schwarber will go down in Cubs lore for his dramatic return from a torn ACL and LCL in time for the 2016 World Series. Despite not facing big league pitching in six months, the catcher-turned-left fielder put on a hitting clinic that series.

Schwarber hit .412 in five games, which includes the rally-inducing single to leadoff the 10th inning of Game 7. That game, of course, was played in Cleveland, which is a perfect Segway for a few off-the-field facts about the Cubs slugger.

1. Schwarber was born in Middletown, Ohio and grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan. As a former catcher, his role model was Johnny Bench — the Reds Hall of Fame backstop.

2. Schwarber attended Middletown High School, where he was a linebacker on the football team. Here’s a legendary photo of him trying to tackle future Ohio State quarterback and NFL wide receiver, Braxton Miller.

3. Not only was he an athlete in high school, but Schwarber was also a member of his school’s show choir. You need this content in your life, and I’m happy to provide it to you.

There’s Schwarber, front and a bit off-center:

For good measure, the Cubs had Schwarber and other players reenact the performance back in 2016 — with future manager David Ross taking a playful shot at Schwarber:

Like I said, you need this content.

4. Schwarber has one brother and three sisters. His dad is a retired police chief, a big inspiration for the Schwarber’s Neighborhood Heroes campaign — which recognizes first responders and their sacrifices.

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