Given the importance of each game in this abbreviated regular season, Cubs manager David Ross did not want to take any chances with star third baseman Kris Bryant on Tuesday.
Bryant reported that he was experiencing soreness in his left elbow while extending on his swing on Monday night. That led Ross to give the 2016 National League MVP a day out of the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the Reds, even though Bryant and the team's training staff do not currently believe the issue to be serious.
"K.B.'s dealing with just a few little bumps and bruises," Ross said in a pregame Zoom discussion with reporters. "I just want to make sure we get on top of it immediately and it doesn't become a bigger issue."
Ross noted that Bryant was receiving treatment behind the scenes, but the Cubs' medical staff did not deem it necessary to pursue additional testing at this point.
"The training staff doesn't seem really concerned," Ross said. "It's just, we're using caution and making sure that he's 100 percent. We need this guy for this season."
The setback for Bryant comes after the third baseman dealt with minor back tightness at the end of Summer Camp, forcing him to miss an exhibition game against the Twins on Wednesday. Through the first four games of the season, Bryant led MLB in pitches seen (93), but has gone 1-for-17 at the plate.
Ross expressed confidence in Bryant's ability to return to his usual form soon enough.
"You would never worry about a guy if we were playing 162, four games in," Ross said. "I don't worry about K.B. Every year, you look at the back of the baseball card and there's really good numbers there. So, I trust that. You have to give trust to those guys who are battle tested and have been through the grind."
Souza's "emotional" hit
In the first inning on Monday night, Steven Souza Jr. ripped a pitch from Reds lefty Wade Miley into the left-field corner at Great American Ball Park. After reaching second with a double, Souza raised his arms skyward and could not contain his wide smile.
That two-run double marked Souza's first hit in the Majors since Sept. 30, 2018, completing a long comeback for the outfielder. During his second-to-last Spring Training game with the D-backs in ‘19, Souza slipped on home plate and sustained a gruesome left knee injury that required season-ending surgery.
"It was really emotional. I didn't actually expect it to be," Souza said. "I wasn't really prepared for how I was going to react. I think it was just overwhelming."
Souza believes part of his emotional reaction stemmed from the hit coming in Cincinnati, where Dr. Timothy Kremchek performed the surgery on his knee.
"It just flooded me," Souza said. "It just brought me back to being thankful for all the people that impacted me. It was just a really cool moment."
• According to research by MLB.com's Sarah Langs, first baseman Anthony Rizzo is only the third player in recorded history (since 1901) to be hit by a pitch at least four times in a team's first four games. In addition to Rizzo (who was also plunked four times in four games in 2015), the others are José Guillén (four in 2006) and Jake Stahl (five in 1904).
"He looks really good," Ross said of Rizzo, who also had three homers and four walks through the Cubs' first four games. "He has been a true catalyst for us and I couldn't be happier where Rizz is at."
• During Monday's 8-7 win, Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel threw 15 curveballs in the ninth inning, but the Reds did not swing at any. Asked Tuesday if Kimbrel may have been tipping his pitches, Ross said that would be hard to discern due to the closer's lack of execution.
"It's easier to try to figure out if it's a tipping issue," Ross said, "[when] you feel like you game-planned the right way and you're executing the pitch and it gets thrown in the gap or hit for a homer. Now, you're worried about, is somebody picking up your signs, am I tipping my pitches? But, it's hard to judge that stuff off of non-executed pitches."
• Left-hander José Quintana (10-day injured list) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, marking his first mound workout since undergoing surgery on his left thumb on July 2.
• Ross would not commit to righty Jeremy Jeffress, who picked up the save on Monday after Kimbrel's exit, as his backup closer. Said Ross: "I trust J.J. in any inning, I can tell you that."
"My sister-in-law is [a nurse] on the front lines. She's on the COVID unit. And she's a champ, honestly, I told her. I talk to her almost every other day, just trying to encourage her, because it's a scary thing when you're in the middle of that. Some of us don't see what's actually happening and I think when you're in the middle of it and you're seeing what's being impacted, it makes you take everything seriously." -- Souza