Bryant Kris-crosses all over the field

May 26th, 2016

CHICAGO -- When Joe Maddon talked to Kris Bryant last year about moving from third base to the outfield from time to time, he cautioned the then-rookie about not changing the way he throws. The Cubs' manager didn't want Bryant to injure his right arm.

Maddon, however, didn't give Bryant a heads-up about the long run to the outfield.

"That's by far the worst -- as silly as it sounds," Bryant said, laughing about the difference between playing third and the outfield. "It's a lot further to run than you'd think."

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And if Bryant has to run in from the outfield to hit, that compounds the matter.

"The worst thing is when you're leading off the inning and you're in left field and [the team] is in the first-base dugout," he said. "You've got to run in and get your stuff on and they've got the clocks, and I get into the box and I'm like, 'Geez, everything is moving so fast.' The run and the run back is the worst part there."

Bryant, 24, isn't complaining, and switching positions hasn't affected his performance at the plate. He's tied with teammate Anthony Rizzo for second in the National League in RBIs with 35, and he's in the top 10 in the league in home runs, hitting his 10th on Wednesday. As a third baseman, Bryant is batting .281 with six home runs and 16 RBIs, and as an outfielder, he's batting .278 with four home runs and 19 RBIs.

Bryant has been needed in the outfield more since Kyle Schwarber suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the season. Bryant's versatility gives Maddon one more piece to play with along with super utilityman Ben Zobrist and youngster Javier Baez.

"I'm looking at my [lineup] card every night thinking about how to improve the defense at the end of the game," Maddon said.

Players in the Cubs' Minor League system should start breaking in extra gloves. Being versatile is trendy.

"I guess it's kind of where the game is going, and a lot of that has to do with Joe and some of the newer managers believing in versatility of guys," Bryant said. "Some guys are, 'Oh, I have to play this position, I have to hit here.' I don't think that's where baseball is headed. You have to play anywhere to help the team.

"For me, that's right field, left field, third base, maybe first base, center field. I want to make it a goal to play all positions before I'm done playing. I think Ben only needs catcher and pitcher."

Would Bryant catch?

"That one would be a harder one to do," he said. "Maybe later on I would try it. I actually caught when I was 12 years old in Little League. In Little League, you need someone who can catch the ball behind the plate, and that was me."

On May 18 in Milwaukee, Bryant and Baez traded places and gloves. In the 12th inning, Bryant started in left, moved in to the left side of the infield when Maddon wanted a five-man infield, switched places with Baez at first, then went back to left. He and Baez shared a first baseman's glove, exchanging it as they crossed paths in the infield. It worked.

"It really is [like Little League], moving all over the place," Bryant said. "I never know where I'm playing until I wake up in the morning and get the lineup text. I guess it makes it exciting for me. I can't be complacent, I have to be ready for anything. That's important to have in this game, especially when you're doing the same thing every day. Sometimes you can lose focus. If you're all over the field, for me, it's good and I stay more focused out there."

As for his throwing, Bryant has heeded Maddon's advice and not altered his motion, no matter where he is.

"He just doesn't want me to hurt myself," Bryant said.