Why Cubs are keeping Bryant in outfield plans despite ’20 injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
MESA, Ariz. — A left-leaning group of Cubs starting outfielders made re-signing right-handed hitting Cameron Maybin to a low-cost deal a no-brainer.
But it’s also keeping All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant firmly in the team’s outfield rotation plans this season despite an uptick in his fielding at third last year and despite a wrist injury suffered on a diving play in the outfield early in last year’s shortened season.
That injury turned out to have the most impact among several physical issues on his down “season” at the plate, with relative little time to recover.
Bryant hasn’t been in the outfield in a game yet this spring, but manager David Ross said this week he’s been taking outfield reps in practice and is still considered one of the team’s backup outfielders.
That’s fine with Bryant, who has said repeatedly over the years he likes mixing it up and moving around defensively.
That’s what he’s told Ross multiple times, too.
“Maybe that’s just what you tell the manager, kind of lip service,” Ross said. “He’s pretty comfortable out there. And he understands that anything can happen, [with the] roster, injuries — there’s lots of things that can happen. And we’re definitely left-handed heavy in the outfield.”
Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward and new left fielder Joc Pederson both bat lefty, and center fielder Ian Happ is a switch hitter.
Pederson, a platoon player much of his career with the Dodgers, has been promised a chance to play everyday with the Cubs.
The Cubs’ infield, on the other hand, has a lot of righty hitters.
So Bryant’s strong ability in the outfield — he has started at all three spots in his career — gives the manager several options for matching up against tough lefties or covering an injury to a starter.
“He understands if there’s a tough matchup that we’ve got other positions that we can fill in the infield from the right side that pushes him to the outfield at times,” Ross said. “Having a right-handed bat that can play the outfield is a bonus when you’re left-handed-heavy in the outfield.”