MILWAUKEE — Never fear Cubs nation, Kris Bryant's shoulder is perfectly healthy.
After the way the last 11 months have gone, it's totally natural to wonder if his recent slump has anything to do with the ailing left shoulder that sapped his power last year and forced him out of nearly 60 games.
Especially when Bryant was removed in the 8th inning Saturday night after the Cubs went up big.
But the Cubs maintain this nothing to do with his shoulder or any other injury. This is just a regular slump for Bryant.
"He's working through some things right now. The big thing is that he's healthy," Joe Maddon said Sunday morning. "He's an elite player and for me, guys like that, you gotta encourage them, you gotta be there to support them. Him and [Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce] are talking, but you just gotta stay with it until he comes out the other side."
Bryant collected a pair of hits in Friday night's loss to the Brewers, including a line drive in the gap for a double. But he went 0-for-5 and struck out in his last 4 at-bats during Saturday's blowout victory and watched as his season average dipped to .229 and OPS to .708.
The 2016 NL MVP started out the year hot with 5 hits (including a homer) and 4 walks in the first four games while put any lingering concerns about his shoulder to rest. Since then, however, he's just 4-for-24 with 9 strikeouts and 0 walks.
On Sunday, Bryant did not strike out, but the results weren't much better — weak flyout on the first pitch, bloop hit, weak flyout on the first pitch and then a popout off Josh Hader with two runners on in the 7th inning.
At the very least, Bryant typically works the count, but he's struggled to do that on a consistent basis lately. You know things aren't going right for him when he's missing mistakes left over the heart of the plate and popping them up instead of crushing them.
Entering play Sunday, the only two position players on the Cubs with a worse OPS were Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. and Zobrist collected 3 hits in 4 at-bats during the series finale in Milwaukee.
But as with everything else right now —- the small sample size matters. The Cubs haven't even played a game at home yet, so it's hard to read too much into any slump.
"I don't see [him pressing]," Anthony Rizzo said. "How many games have there been — nine? I'm sure throughout the year, a couple guys will have a worse nine games than they've had in these first nine. And you just weather the storm until you get hot."
The only thing that truly matters with Bryant right now is his health and there is no flare-up with that shoulder.
"He's gonna start hitting like he had," Maddon said. "I really believe this is an elite player coming off the end of last season — not so good, injured. This season, the first game in Texas, I said, 'My god, here we go.' That looked absolutely perfect. So just continuing to support him and let him play out of it."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.