MESA, Ariz. — As miserable physically as Kris Bryant’s season seemed in 2020, it was actually worse.
During a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago, Bryant confirmed what another source said earlier this spring: The sprained left ring finger and wrist “injury” that eventually put him on the injured list included an impact fracture that Bryant did not divulge during the season.
Bryant, who suffered the injury trying to make a diving catch in left field early in the pandemic shortened season last summer, attempted to play through the injury until landing on the IL a week later. Even with the fracture, the ligament damage in the finger might have been the tougher to deal with at the plate.
Bottom line is he missed two weeks and continued to be hampered by the injury until the final series of the season against the White Sox.
It was one of several injuries that Bryant has downplayed while trying to stay on the field as the Cubs have chased playoff berths in recent years, including knee and ankle injuries during an All-Star 2019 season.
In fact, after winning a Rookie of the Year Award and MVP, and earning two All-Star selections, his first three years in the big leagues, he has stayed in the lineup for 281 of 384 games since then despite playing through injuries in about half (141) of those games — earning that third All-Star selection along the way.
Maybe that’s why he bristles so much as criticism of his performance and the occasional suggestion that he’s somehow “soft.”
Maybe that’s why he says again, nearly six months after he said it the first time publicly: “I don’t give a sh—” about outside noise.
And maybe first-year fatherhood and the gravity of a lethal pandemic the past year has added natural introspection to that process as well.
So when he’s asked if he thinks the context of those injuries and his push to play through them is lost on those bringing all the noise, he looks in the mirror first.
“Those are tough questions to answer because what do I say to that,” he said. “I don’t want to come across as just complaining or whatever because that’s never been who I am. I think maybe I brought it on myself, too, with just how I present myself and how I answered [media] questions or how hard I am on myself, or the expectations that I have on myself [that] maybe allow that to happen. Which isn’t a bad thing.
“Like I said, I’m at a point where I don’t give a sh—. I really don’t. And it’s a great feeling to have.”
The other side of the injuries is that they’ve come on aggressive plays — the sliding attempted catch, running out a grounder and hitting a slick bag on a wet night (knee/ankle injury), sliding headfirst and jamming fingers and a shoulder on differing plays.
“Sometimes that stuff happens,” he said. “It’s not a concern to me at all. I’m young. I feel great. It’s just certain things that have happened that have been a byproduct of hustle and caring and wanting to succeed for the team.”
When healthy, he’s been the Cubs’ best hitter since he arrived in 2015. And even when hurt most of last year’s short season, he managed to noticeably raise his game defensively at third.
As he enters what could be his final season as a Cub, he’s healthy again, seems happy and says he’s in a good frame of mind.
“I’ve played through a lot of things that were bothering me because I wanted to play, I want to be on the field, I want to help the team, I want to compete. Good or bad,” he said. “I could have spoken up a little more and said hey I’m not feeling really good. Maybe if I did that I might have set myself up better down the road. …
“But I’d rather get criticized for answering questions genuinely and for what I believe in and for who I am than being fake and just saying the company line or whatever,” he added. “I can go to bed at night knowing that’s who I am as a person, and if that’s not good enough for some people, that’s not on me.”