Cubs give Kris Bryant a day off but maintain he's in a 'good place'




 

Cubs give Kris Bryant a day off but maintain he's in a 'good place' originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com

No, Kris Bryant is not hurt. His absence from the lineup Saturday afternoon has nothing to do with his left shoulder.

"This was part of the three-day in advance lineups and today was his day," Joe Maddon said. "That's it."

OK, so...story over?

Not quite. Bryant isn't hurt, but he is slumping and it's understandable fans go straight to freaking out after the way 2018 went, when the former NL MVP battled the shoulder injury all season that kept him out of the lineup and made him look off at the plate even when he was on the field.

He got off to a hot start in Texas (4-for-13, HR, 2B, 3 BB, 4 RBI) but in April, he's struggled - .205 average, .578 OPS, only 3 extra-base hits (all doubles) and 13 strikeouts in 39 at-bats.

"I had a really good conversation with him yesterday," Maddon said. "He's actually in a good place. Again, just trying to stay in front of all the different maneuvering I like to do this year and make sure that everybody understands why. We talked about it yesterday - he was great. I just want to be proactive.

"Of course, not going great for him right now, so maybe the day's gonna help him a little bit, but I want these guys to know proactively. I want to give them days off irregardless of the day before being good or bad - this is how it's set up."

Maddon talked about the new lineup communication in detail in spring training. Essentially, instead of giving players the next day's lineup the night before, he now plans out lineups for the series in advance and lets everybody know before the first game of that series.

So Bryant knew he had Saturday off Thursday night, before the series with the Angels even kicked off.

As long as his shoulder's OK and otherwise healthy, we can all write this off as just another slump for Bryant. And hey, at least this valley hasn't come anywhere near Chris Davis territory (who ended his 0-for-54 stretch with a hit Saturday).

Bryant's tough start is not ideal given the way last year played out, but he and the Cubs insist he's not pressing or trying to do too much at the plate. So eventually we should see him get back to the hitter he was from 2015-17 when he slashed .288/.388/.527 (.915 OPS).

"[He's working] just like he always has," Maddon said. "I watch him - the work is exactly the same. I talked to him yesterday, he says he feels great at the plate. I listen to the guys, I watch.

"Of course, you're not seeing the contact that you're used to seeing, but I know a couple years ago, he went through a really awful moment and came out on the other side of it, too. It's early. ... I just continue to encourage and believe he's gonna come out of it relatively soon."

The Cubs still have more than 90 percent of the season remaining and with a day off Saturday to reset mentally, another possible day off Sunday with terrible weather scheduled for Wrigley Field and then a trip to Miami against one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball might be the right recipe for Bryant to bounce back.

Even though he's not hitting the ball with authority the way everybody expects him to, Bryant has still reached base safely in all but two games so far in 2019. He's finding ways to help the team even when he's not putting the ball over the fence or into a gap.

"We have been taught so much in our game to evaluate yourself by wearing your batting average on the sleeve of your shirt," Maddon said. "Too many guys live and die by that number or how that's going. But there's so many other different ways to help us win today that he's capable of because he has all these tools in the toolbox. So that's what I try to impress upon him."

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