Bryant returns from illness, launches first HR

August 4th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Wearing a blue camouflage mask, returned to Wrigley Field on Monday after a two-day hiatus due to illness.

In his return to the lineup, Bryant was back in the leadoff spot and in left field after going through MLB's COVID-19 protocols as a precaution. Bryant experienced stomach issues before Saturday's game against the Pirates, and he had multiple coronavirus tests come back negative at least 24 hours apart prior to being cleared to rejoin the team.

"I didn't really have much concern," Bryant said in a Zoom discussion with reporters before Monday's game. "It kind of caught me off guard, too, just the whole process. But it's a great thing that I went through it, because if I did have it, that's how it starts. One person."

In the Cubs' 2-0 victory over the Royals, Bryant went 2-for-3 with his first home run of the season -- a first-pitch solo shot off Ian Kennedy in the seventh inning to provide an insurance run. Bryant also led off the first with a double and drew a walk.

Cubs manager David Ross commended Bryant on Sunday and again Monday for going to the team's medical staff and self-reporting his symptoms. While the Cubs' doctors were confident that the third baseman only had a stomach bug, caution was still exercised due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's just a unique time that we've got to be extremely cautious," Ross said. "When you feel off from the normal kind of day-to-day bumps and bruises, or are just feeling off some days, whether it's something you ate or somehow you contracted the virus, that's a tough game to play in your head.

"So it's best to go see the docs, go see the experts and let them make those decisions."

Last week during the Cubs' road trip to Cincinnati, Bryant praised Reds infielder Mike Moustakas for reporting feeling ill and entering MLB's return-to-play protocols as well. After going through the process himself this past weekend, Bryant reiterated the importance of players taking that approach across baseball.

"If you do feel something, just stay away and take it as seriously as possible," Bryant said. "That's the only way we're going to really get through a World Series. I just think it's important. Put your pride and egos aside. It could end up helping the rest of your teammates out."

Cubs-Cards series as scheduled
Major League Baseball announced on Monday that the Cardinals' four-game series against the Tigers this week was postponed due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests among St. Louis' players and staff. The current schedule calls for the Cardinals to host the Cubs in a three-game series, beginning Friday.

"We've got Kansas City still for four," said Ross, referring to the home-and-home series with the Royals. "There's so much that we have to take care of before we get to Friday, but yeah, it's in the back of our minds. I know our front office is working diligently on that and in communication with MLB."

After Sunday's game, Cubs lefty Jon Lester said he hoped St. Louis' situation would not cause a disruption in Chicago's schedule, given the North Siders' strong start to the campaign.

"Guys right now just want to keep playing," Lester said. "Guys are playing well, so it's like, 'Let's keep running out there and seeing how far we can take this.'"

Worth noting
• The Cubs still have had no positive COVID-19 tests within their player group. Outfielder Ian Happ, who is Chicago's rep to the MLB Players Association, credited the Cubs' ownership, front office and staff on Monday for the resources available, and praised his teammates for their behavior both at and away from the ballpark.

"We had a discussion as a team [at the start of Summer Camp]," Happ said. "Everybody was on the same page as far as what was acceptable, what was not acceptable, how important it was for us to stay healthy, and the effect that you would have on your teammates, your teammates' families."

• Ross noted that struggling reliever Craig Kimbrel threw an "intense" bullpen session on Saturday, following a rough outing against the Pirates on Friday. Kimbrel was in line to pitch the 12th inning on Sunday, if necessary, and continues to sort through some mechanical issues behind the scenes.

"Things are going well," Ross said. "The feedback from [bullpen coach Chris Young] was good. Again, it's continue to communicate, check in with him daily, see where he's at, see how he feels and continue to grow. He's no different. Everybody on this team can get better."

• Lefty José Quintana (10-day injured list) replicated a normal between-start bullpen session on Monday, logging 30 pitches. It marked his third time off a mound since undergoing surgery on his left thumb.

"We're doing the best we can. I really believe MLB is doing the best they can. We are really enjoying baseball. I hope the world is enjoying baseball. It's fun to come here every day to work, and we're just trying to be as safe as we possibly can and enjoy the game we love to play." -- Ross