Bryant: Hitting leadoff 'going really good for me'

March 12th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- As part of his transition to the leadoff spot for the Cubs, has picked the brains of a few of his teammates this spring. He has sought feedback from Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras, who have each spent time atop the order.

As Bryant prepares for that role, there has been one main takeaway from those conversations.

"I feel like for a lot of the guys that didn't do what they wanted to do in the leadoff spot," Bryant said, "anxiety is a big factor. You feel like you have to do more, just because you're the first at-bat of the game or you're the one getting five at-bats a game, stuff like that.

"Where it's like, for me, I'm really trying not to think that way. It's just, I'm trying to embrace this as me just moving up one spot in the batting order and that's all I'm really treating this as."

With 11 games under his belt this spring, Bryant has had ample time to get an early feel for what it feels like atop the batting order, with Rizzo following in the second slot. The third baseman said the strangest part of the role is seeing the first pitch of the game, but he feels that will become more comfortable closer to Opening Day.

Given Bryant's combination of power, on-base skill and baserunning ability, it's not hard to understand why Cubs manager David Ross believes the third baseman can impact the lineup as the tablesetter.

Last season, Bryant posted a .382 on-base percentage, saw 3.93 pitches per plate appearances (a tick above the MLB average of 3.91) and was one of the Cubs' best baserunners. He has also hit .291/.385/.531 in 548 plate appearances when leading off an inning. In '19, Bryant hit .333/.448/.632 when leading off an inning (105 PAs).

"I'm not going to really change who I am as a player or my approach at the plate," Bryant said. "[Ross] just wants me to move up one spot and get more at-bats, and I'm all for that. It's been going really good for me, mentally, and just getting these reps is only going to help me when the season finally does start."