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Inbox: How is Bryant's shoulder progressing?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Cubs fans' questions
January 31, 2019

How is Kris Bryant's shoulder? And how much influence does his dad have on what Bryant does? -- Larry C., Estacada, Ore.All indications are that Bryant's left shoulder is healthy and strong, and that the Cubs' third baseman will be unrestricted during Spring Training. Bryant emphasized as much during conversations

How is Kris Bryant's shoulder? And how much influence does his dad have on what Bryant does?
-- Larry C., Estacada, Ore.

All indications are that Bryant's left shoulder is healthy and strong, and that the Cubs' third baseman will be unrestricted during Spring Training. Bryant emphasized as much during conversations with reporters this offseason, noting that he began his hitting program in early December and has been swinging hard with zero issues. Getting Bryant back to his usual slugging ways would be a huge lift for Chicago's lineup.
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As for his father, Mike, it's well known that he played a huge role in building his son's swing and that he continues to play a large part in Bryant's offseason regimen. Mike Bryant runs Bryant Baseball Academy in Las Vegas and serves as a hitting instructor for other young hitters, too.
That type of setup -- whether it's a dad like Mike, who played professional baseball in the 1980s, or a private instructor -- is becoming more common for hitters. And more teams are recognizing that this dynamic is not going to go away.

I can speak to a similar situation in Cleveland, where longtime outfielder Michael Brantley (now with the Astros) worked closely with his dad, former Major Leaguer Mickey Brantley. They had a close bond and dedicated time both in the offseason and season to working on and discussing Michael's swing. The Indians respected that relationship, but there was always great communication with Cleveland's MLB hitting coaches at the same time.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke on this topic during the Winter Meetings and compared it to golfers who have personal swing coaches.
"There are going to be other voices that are impactful and influential," Epstein said. "And you ought to listen and understand where they're coming from and know what they're being taught, so you can help. But I don't think, especially with really talented players, you don't want to take something away from them that's been helpful and try to rebuild them. You want to understand what works for them and try to incorporate it into your system a little bit, but more than anything, you respect what they rely upon and you're going to be around them every day, so you try to be able to reinforce that.
"If you look at on the PGA Tour, every player has their own swing coach. Hitting a baseball is a little harder than hitting a golf ball, but that might be where things end up 10 years from now or something. You might have guys all with their own swing coach. We're not there yet, but certainly the hitting coach job is a lot different now. If you look back a generation ago, it was, 'We hired Hitting Coach X and his philosophy is the following,' and then you're going to try to essentially bring everybody along in that way, whether it's something mechanical or approach-wise.
"Now, it's more understanding players' individual approaches, offering them alternatives and adjustments, but it's more understanding their process, their swing, their mechanics and working with them. So it's a different ballgame now."
The scouting summary for MLB Pipeline's No. 4 Cubs prospect Brailyn Marquez reads: "His command isn't as advanced as his control." What does that mean?
-- Jack F., Louisville, Colo.

That's a great question, Jack, because there is indeed a subtle difference in the meaning behind both descriptions of a pitcher. You'll sometimes hear the terms being used interchangeably, but that's a mistake.
Simply put, a pitcher with great control is going to be able to throw strikes consistently. That said, not every strike is created equal, right? If the catcher was set up over the outside edge and the pitcher fired a strike more over the middle, that's a mislocated strike. You might say he had good control, but he did not command the pitch. So think of command as the ability to place the ball in its intended location -- both in and out of the zone. If a catcher does not need to move his glove much, you'd say that pitcher has great command.

After hearing so much this offseason about whether the designated hitter should be brought to the National League, I wonder what your thoughts are on the topic? And do you think this is why the Cubs have not traded Kyle Schwarber?
-- Richard J., West Bloomfield, Mich.

Let's get the second part of that question out of the way first. No, I do not think Schwarber is still around because the Cubs are envisioning him as a DH in the NL at some point. That scenario may not even come to fruition. I think Schwarber is still around because he's not only cost effective ($3.39 million in 2019) and young (25), but also an above-average hitter (115 wRC+ with 26 homers and a career-high 15.3 percent walk rate in '18).
As for the concept of bringing the DH to the NL? I'd be in favor of it, and that's a change in opinion for me. When I was younger, I was all-in on being a traditionalist. <> Well, after covering some silly, avoidable pitcher injuries over the years, and watching so many automatic outs, I'm now firmly in the universal DH camp.

With Brandon Morrow looking like he won't be ready for Opening Day, who will fill the closer role? A committee? I would love to see Pedro Strop close even after Morrow is fully ready.
-- Noah M., Las Vegas

I would expect Strop to get the bulk of the save opportunities while Morrow is sidelined. Until his own injury issues in September, Strop filled in well as the primary closer after Morrow was shelved on July 19 and out for the remainder of last season. Strop had 11 saves in 13 chances with a 1.77 ERA and a .139 opponents' average (.475 OPS) in 20 games between July 19-Sept. 13. And when Morrow does rejoin the bullpen, we will surely revisit this topic.

When do individual tickets go on sale for the Cubs?
-- Justin M., Three Rivers, Mich.

During Cubs Convention, the team announced that single-game tickets will go on sale on Feb. 22. In the meantime, ticket packs can be purchased now at cubs.com/packs.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.