MESA, Ariz. -- As Kris Bryant spoke at his locker on Monday morning, Cubs pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. waited for several minutes just behind the throng of reporters. The size of the crowd combined with all the cameras made it impossible for Underwood to get to his own stall to
MESA, Ariz. -- As Kris Bryant spoke at his locker on Monday morning, Cubs pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. waited for several minutes just behind the throng of reporters. The size of the crowd combined with all the cameras made it impossible for Underwood to get to his own stall to prepare for the first full-squad workout of the spring.
On the field or in the clubhouse, there will be no easing into this spring for Bryant.
"The offseason was the time to ease into it, which I did," Bryant said. "Now, this is the time to go. There's no easing into it. I'm ready to go -- full steam ahead."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Bryant has been in camp for a few days -- putting on a show in batting practice, gloving grounders and getting in his work behind the scenes -- but Monday marked his first meeting with the media. As the star relayed at Cubs Convention, there are currently no restrictions when it comes to the left shoulder injury that limited him to 102 games and sapped his slugging percentage last season.
• Bryant revisits St. Louis chatter
The Cubs would have much rather played deep into October, but one positive of the early postseason dismissal was an extra month of rest for Bryant. Rest, it turns out, is precisely what he required to let the shoulder heal before winter workouts. By December, Bryant was swinging aggressively without discomfort and getting back to his regular mechanics.
"We didn't give it enough time to properly heal," Bryant said of last season. "Kind of like when you sprain an ankle and you keep walking on it or you keep exercising on it. It's not going to heal the way it should. That's kind of what I was doing. I'd take a week off and get back into things, swinging light and doing this and, for me, I really needed to just not do anything for like a month.
"And that's kind of what I did this offseason. I went home and I didn't do anything, and then right when I got back into it, sure, I felt a little sore, but it was good soreness. And then a month after that I was like, 'Wow, it's completely gone. I feel great. I'm going to start swinging.' And I did and everything just kind of took off from there."
Bryant said he injured the shoulder on May 19, when he legged out an infield single against Cincinnati's Dylan Floro by diving headfirst into first base. He sustained bone bruising on the play, and it impacted his production dramatically -- around two stints on the disabled list -- over the remainder of the season.
Heading into that ill-fated game against the Reds, Bryant was sporting a .311/.428/.595 line through 38 games. From that point on, he hit .249/.339/.378 in 64 games and adopted a two-handed swing later in the year in an effort to reduce stress on the shoulder.
Bryant believes Cubs fans will recognize his old swing -- the one that helped him win the National League MVP Award in 2016 -- when they see him this year.
"I've been a really good baseball player with that swing my whole life," Bryant said. "I was looking at me when I was 8 years old and I swung the same way, so I'm not going to change anything just because I had an injury last year. I'm over the injury. I've done everything I need to do to get over it, and I'm back to who I am."
And that would provide a tremendous boost for a Cubs lineup that struggled without Bryant at full strength last season.
"Any time I take the baseball field," Bryant said, "whether it's a Spring Training game or an actual game, I'm looking to do damage. That's kind of my mindset this year."
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.