Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel’s bounce-back seasons with the Cubs have earned them trips to the All-Star Game in Colorado this month.
It’s Bryant’s fourth career selection in six chances and the eighth of Kimbrel’s decorated career, his first since 2018. Both were selected by player vote.
Bryant had a down 2020 in the shortened 60-game campaign, albeit in a small 34-game sample size. He’s been the Cubs’ best hitter this season, batting .272/.355/.511 with 16 home runs and 42 RBIs in 76 games.
Bryant has also started at five positions, spending more time in the outfield than third base.
With how last season went, he acknowledged the selection has extra meaning this season.
“After last year I wasn’t in a great headspace mentally,” he said. “I hit the offseason with a ton of motivation and really wanting to get after it because I know the type of player I am.
“I know what I bring to the team and what I bring to the city. It's nice to be recognized for that, especially after a tough season last year.”
But every All-Star Game selection is special, Bryant said. He was selected as a rookie in 2015 and competed in the Home Run Derby, with his dad, Mike, pitching to him.
Bryant earned a second straight selection in 2016, when the game was played in San Diego, where he attended college.
He was selected a third time in 2019, when the game was played in Cleveland — where the Cubs made history a few years prior.
This season is Bryant’s first selection since his son Kyler was born last April.
“They never get old, and I'm super thankful and grateful for the recognition,” Bryant said. “I can't wait to get to Denver.”
Kimbrel’s selection comes after a tough first season-plus with the Cubs. He’s been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, sporting a 0.59 ERA and 0.652 WHIP in 32 appearances, converting 20 of 22 save chances.
"It definitely feels good," Kimbrel said.
Kimbrel offered appreciation to his teammates for setting him up for success by the time he enters the game.
“Those guys just put me in a good spot to be where I am,” he said.
But Kimbrel deserves recognition for the historic achievement. Only 10 pitchers in MLB history have more selections than him, and all 10 are Hall of Famers.
Only two relievers have more, including Goose Gossage (nine), who was selected once as a starting pitcher.
“I've been able to be a part of great teams and I’ve been put in some great positions,” Kimbrel said.
“Ten years is a long time. I've been able to go out there and stay as healthy as I can. In doing that I've been able to do my job.”
At one point, it appeared the Cubs could get as many as four or five All-Stars. Depending on injury replacements in the next several days, Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks could be in line.
Contreras leads all catchers in innings caught. Hendricks is 9-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last 12 outings — 10 of which are quality starts.
Former Cubs Kyle Schwarber (first career) and Yu Darvish (fifth) also made the National League squad. Nick Castellanos was named a starter earlier this week.