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Kris Bryant playing first base is not a common sight. And if you think it might make the Cubs’ MVP third baseman a little uncomfortable to move across the diamond, well you’re right.

But that’s the idea.

Bryant likes being uncomfortable. He “strives” to be uncomfortable. And there are few things more uncomfortable than a cold shower. Which is why Bryant takes cold showers.

“I might look comfortable, but I kind of strive being uncomfortable because it’s the only way to make progress. Anywhere from taking cold showers or just putting yourself out of this comfort zone is big, especially in sports,” Bryant said. “You don’t ever want to feel like you’re comfortable or complacent because that’s where you start to go backwards.”

Wait a minute. You take cold showers? To quote Cosmo Kramer, they give you a whoosh.

“Absolutely,” Bryant responded with a gusto not dissimilar from that of the founder of Kramerica Industries. “Throw the shower on cold. Honestly it’s the only way to — sometimes I need to trick myself. Sometimes I do feel a little comfortable, and moving over to first, taking ground balls at a different position, trying something new off the tee or in the cage, just to switch things up.”

Well Bryant got his wish in Friday’s series opener with the Atlanta Braves, starting at first base for the first time this season and the ninth time in his career while Anthony Rizzo wraps up his stay on the disabled list. (By the way, Joe Maddon said Rizzo’s feeling good enough to play and is lining up to come off the disabled list early next week.)

 

Versatility in the field is nothing new for Bryant, who in his career has logged time everywhere besides second base and catcher, and Maddon’s frequent shifts sometimes include Bryant moving over to the traditional second-base area, meaning he’s pretty much got experience there, too.

And moving around the field is nothing new for anyone who plays for Maddon’s Cubs. Ben Zobrist, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ. All these guys are known for being versatile cogs that Maddon can plug into a variety of different positions. Bryant’s doing the same thing, and Maddon expectedly loves it.

“I think we’ve nurtured it. We’ve had guys do different things,” Maddon said Friday. “We’ve gotten Zo out of his comfort zone at first base, KB plays everywhere and becomes an MVP. It started eight years ago at different organizations with players because I thought it would augment their value and also helps the team win, it lengthens your bench.

“There was a time that it was always frowned upon. ‘If you’re a second baseman coming up in A-ball or Double-A, there’s no way I’m going to play you at shortstop or third base, there’s no way. I don’t want to retard your development.’ Which I think was the absolute opposite. Because when it comes down to it, when the bat’s ready, you’re ready. So we need to have a position for you. So if you’re bat’s ready and you’re ready but you’re only a second baseman and you’ve got Ryne Sandberg playing, then you’re going to stick in the minor leagues forever.

“So go play, be an athlete, be a baseball player, don’t be afraid of moving around a little bit. If you make a mistake, I’m not pointing a finger at you, I asked you to do it. It’s part of how we do things here. I love that he does that. When one of your best players is like that, the buy-in’s easy.”

Considering he might have started his day with a cold shower — an especially uncomfortable move in these suboptimal April temperatures — Bryant is perfectly happy to spend a day at another position. And he doesn’t even need any pointers from the other half of the Bryzzo Souvenir Co.

“No,” Bryant said when asked if he got any tips from Rizzo. “I watch him every day, so that’s all I really need to see. He does a great job over there, footwork around the bag, big target. I feel like I don’t need to ask because he’s been so good there just from watching.

“It’s just getting to the bag on time. With certain right-handed hitters, you’re going to be playing a little more pull. And as a third baseman, you want the first baseman to get there pretty quick so that you’re not trying to hit a moving target. That’s my biggest thing is just get there and give them a good target.”