Bryant 'proud' to represent Cubs at ASG

July 14th, 2021

As took his place in left field at Coors Field during the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, the Cubs star agreed to have the spotlight on him for a few minutes.

Bryant was one of a handful of players to wear a mic for some in-game banter on the national broadcast. After a few light comments were tossed back and forth, announcer Joe Buck added a quick qualifier on the front end of his next question.

"Well, I know you're sick of talking about it ..."

Cubs fans and Bryant alike knew what was coming next. Even in this spotlight moment, Bryant could not escape the storyline that is swirling around the franchise right now. The team is struggling, a handful of core players have contracts expiring and the Trade Deadline looms.

For Bryant and closer -- Chicago's two representatives at this Midsummer Classic -- questions about their future will be constant in the days leading up to the July 30 Deadline. They are among the dozen-plus players (including Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo) who could be free agents next winter.

"Right now, I've still got the 'Cubs' on my chest and I'm proud of that," Bryant said during his mic'd-up moment. "I'm proud to play for such an unbelievable city. Until they tell me I'm not, I'll go out there and give it all I've got."

In the American League's 5-2 victory over the National League in the 91st All-Star Game, Bryant came up empty in two at-bats. He struck out against Oakland's Chris Bassitt in the sixth. Then with the bases loaded in the eighth, he was robbed of a hit with a highlight-reel catch in left by Jared Walsh of the Angels.

Kimbrel faced three batters in the ninth, finishing his appearance by inducing a groundout off the bat of Nelson Cruz. The Cubs' closer had to hustle to cover first on the play, and Cruz gave the veteran pitcher a fist bump after the out.

Like Bryant, Kimbrel should be high on the wish list of multiple October-bound teams later this month. In the aftermath of an 11-game losing streak, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer made it clear recently that the team was shifting into sell mode.

Kimbrel would not concede that the Cubs' transactional path was set in stone.

"I wouldn't say it's clear," Kimbrel told reporters in Denver on Monday. "Obviously, when you go on an 11-game losing streak, it definitely pushes one way. But at the end of the day, that's not a decision that I make. All I can do is go out and pitch and try and win ballgames. That's all our team can do."

Bryant has certainly been doing his part, too.

Offensively, Bryant has hit .271/.353/.502 with 16 homers, 46 RBIs and a 133 OPS + (33 percent above MLB average). The fact that the four-time All-Star jogged out to left field in the seventh on Tuesday displayed his versatility.

A third baseman by trade, Bryant has moved all over the diamond this season in an effort to help Cubs manager David Ross keep an injury-plagued roster from collapsing. Bryant has started at third (24 games), right field (21), left field (14), center field (10) and first base (10).

"I'll be the glue that patches the holes," Bryant quipped while mic'd up.

Bryant added that all the moving around has actually helped him keep his mind off the external distractions, like contract talks or trade rumors.

"Honestly," Bryant said, "I feel like moving around all these positions really helps me. It's a new thing every day, and I'm just trying to focus on that day."

And Bryant will keep trying to hone that focus as the trade chatter persists and picks up steam in the weeks ahead. Whether he is sick of the questions or not, everyone knows they will keep coming.

It was the same throughout Monday's media day, when Bryant -- drafted by the Cubs in 2013, the NL's Rookie of the Year in '15 and the NL MVP plus a World Series champion in '16 -- was asked again about this potentially being his last All-Star appearance for Chicago.

"I don't think like that," Bryant said. "It could happen. I could be here for two days, two months, two years, 10 years. It's all up in the air. But it's really cool to say I put this uni on four times for the Chicago Cubs.

"That's something that I don't take lightly, either. Just the history behind the organization and everything I've been through there, to be able to represent the team with Craig here, it's so special to me."