This position is more of an option for Bryant in 2023
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After playing all his defensive innings in left field in his first season with the Rockies, Kris Bryant is showing up in right field this spring -- and he likes the idea.
Bryant had been a multi-positional star in the infield and outfield corners with the Cubs and Giants before signing the seven-year, $182 million contract with the Rockies. But all along, the belief was his versatility would come into play.
Randal Grichuk's bilateral sports hernia surgery and the profiles of the outfielders in camp could lead Bryant to play occasionally in right, and his versatility could make other moves possible. Bryant has started four Cactus League games -- two as designated hitter and two in right -- including Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.
“[Manager Bud Black] just mentioned it to me at the beginning,” Bryant said. “There are some things [that could change]. ... But he definitely said right field is going to be more of an option this year. And I talked to [general manager Bill Schmidt], and he said the same, so I’m ready for it.”
The thought going into last season was to keep Bryant in one spot. But Bryant, who was limited to 42 games last season by back and right foot injuries, said the position is more taxing at Coors Field than other venues.
“At Coors, it’s definitely kind of a big deal, just because left-center, it’s like a graveyard out there -- it’s huge,” Bryant said. “So maybe a little less ground to cover in right, maybe a little bit easier on the body. I’ve played both and feel pretty comfortable at both. So it seems that right field will be in the plans this year.”
Black declined to pin down the 2023 plan with Bryant. But with Grichuk out, expect Charlie Blackmon, primarily a DH, to also fit into the right-field mix. Black said the fit is due to personnel matters more than the configuration of Coors Field, where right presents its own challenges because of the irregular reaction of the ball off the tall out-of-town scoreboard.
“He’s comfortable anywhere you put him,” Black said of Bryant. “The way our outfield alignment potentially might look, it makes sense to put him in at right field if Charlie’s going to DH quite a bit. That’s why we’re looking at a lot of different options.”
New Major Leaguer Sean Bouchard and prospects Michael Toglia and Nolan Jones have right field in their profiles. Yonathan Daza, the projected center fielder, also has game-changing arm accuracy that can be beneficial in right. And non-roster veterans Harold Castro and Cole Tucker are adept at playing the outfield.
Bryant also played significant time at third with the Cubs. With Ryan McMahon figuring to move from third to second to some degree -- possibly extensively, since Brendan Rodgers is headed for left shoulder surgery -- third for Bryant is a logical fit.
Bryant is lukewarm at best about entertaining it, especially without an offseason of prep time.
“There are guys that could definitely fill in there -- a lot of infielders, a lot of ex-infielders, a lot of guys that we brought in that can play all over,” Bryant said.
Going into the 2013 MLB Draft, the industry belief was the Cubs would select Oklahoma pitcher Jon Gray and Bryant, from the University of San Diego, would go to the Rockies and be developed to succeed Carlos González in right. But in the hours leading to the Draft, the Cubs’ plan to go after Bryant second overall became known, and the Rockies nabbed Gray at No. 3.
It took a while, but it appears Bryant will land in right with the Rockies, at least some of the time.
• After throwing two scoreless innings against the Athletics in his first Cactus League start, righty Peter Lambert yielded a homer, walked three and struck out one vs. the Giants on Friday. Following Tommy John surgery in 2020 and two more years of elbow problems, he's glad to feel healthy.
“I’m happy with how my arm felt, but obviously just wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate,” he said.
• Catcher Elias Díaz, who is preparing for the World Baseball Classic, went 2-for-2 and is 6-for-10 with a homer and a double this spring.
“It’s controlling the strike one and hitting good pitches, not chasing,” Black said of Díaz's performance. “When he puts the bat on the ball, it exits really fast.”
• Non-roster infielder Coco Montes continued to strike a note as an unsung player, with his second spring homer.