Bryant returns after testing right ankle

May 1st, 2016

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon waited inside Sunday, holding off on announcing his lineup while Kris Bryant tested his mildly-sprained right ankle.

Bryant spent the morning at Wrigley Field working with Cubs trainers, starting with a run of warmups. Then he simulated fly ball routes. He ran back, then forward, then mimicked running in on a ball and throwing home, looking smooth and healthy despite the wet outfield grass. Bryant and trainer PJ Mainville eventually walked back inside and into Maddon's office to deliver good news.

A day earlier than Maddon expected, all is well. Bryant was good to go, and Maddon penciled him in to bat third and play left field in the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Braves on Sunday.

"Felt good," Bryant said. "I think that was their concern, if I could run down some balls out there. But I felt fine going through all the routes."

Bryant injured the ankle rounding second base in Thursday's 7-2 win against the Brewers and left after the fourth inning. The injury kept him out of the starting lineup Friday, but he was available off the bench. Despite warming up in the on-deck circle in the seventh before an inning-ending double play, Bryant got the day off and then benefited from Saturday's rainout.

By Sunday, Bryant was ready to go and mobile enough to play the outfield instead of third base, where Maddon wanted to work in Tommy La Stella. And that brings up another point.

With La Stella reaching base in nine of his past 12 plate appearances and infielder Javier Baez hitting .310 since joining the club April 15, Bryant's versatility is proving to be a huge asset.

Bryant is hitting .289 with four home runs and 15 RBIs, and he has started 15 games at third base, five in left field and one in right field. Maddon said Bryant has improved in both the infield and the outfield, and though he's capable of being an everyday third baseman, his value as a flex player is undeniable.

"He's comfortable with it," Maddon said. "It's not like it's an issue for him whatsoever."

Regardless of where he is playing, Bryant also returns to the lineup with a lesson. He said he typically tapes his ankles before every game, but that wasn't the case Thursday.

"I didn't do it the last three or four games because I was feeling good," he said. "But then of course something happens. The baseball gods were telling me I need to continue to tape my ankles."