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Bryant launches homer in first rehab game

Special to MLB.com

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. -- The first prolonged absence from the baseball diamond in Kris Bryant's career did little to prevent him from making a statement that he is ready to return to the Cubs.

The Chicago third baseman capped his first rehab game at Double-A Tennessee on Monday by crushing a two-run home run over the left-field fence in his fourth at-bat.

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. -- The first prolonged absence from the baseball diamond in Kris Bryant's career did little to prevent him from making a statement that he is ready to return to the Cubs.

The Chicago third baseman capped his first rehab game at Double-A Tennessee on Monday by crushing a two-run home run over the left-field fence in his fourth at-bat.

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Bryant's blast was validation of his decision to take a break and allow his ailing left shoulder to heal instead of playing through the injury.

"It bothered me when swinging and my follow-through because I've always had a big, long follow-through, and with big, long levers, sometimes things wear down, and that's just kind of what it was," Bryant said. "I'm glad that I said something when I did because if I just kept playing through it, it could have been a lot worse."

Bryant has been sidelined since June 23 with left shoulder inflammation, but said his shoulder feels good and that he only needs to regain his timing before rejoining the Cubs. For now, barring any setbacks, the plan is for him to play in two games before returning to the Majors.

"It's responded great. I think we've really strengthened it and gotten it to where it needs to be," Bryant said. "... Taking two weeks off is tough. It's hard to get thrown right back into the fire like that. I thought coming down here and taking some at-bats in a no-pressure environment -- obviously, I would love to help the team win -- but for me, I just want to get that timing back."

The injury showed no signs of hampering the 2016 National League MVP on Monday.

He consistently drove balls to and over the wall during batting practice and continued that power showcase with his home run, a no-doubt shot off a 91 mph fastball from Benton Moss in the seventh inning.

It was the type of shot that Bryant became known for back in 2014 when he was establishing himself as a rising star inside Smokies Park. In 68 games with Tennessee, he hit 22 home runs before being promoted to Triple-A Iowa midseason.

"This is a fun park to hit in. I love this place, but home runs are home runs," Bryant said. "I don't care where I hit them, but it'd be cool to hit one down here."

Bryant also logged an RBI single in the second, finishing the night 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored while also playing seven innings at third base. Contributing was a welcomed feeling for Bryant, who watched from the dugout as Chicago amassed a 9-5 record in his absence entering Monday.

"[I've been] very hungry, especially watching the team have so much success like they've been doing," Bryant said. "I was kind of sitting on the bench feeling useless watching the game. Sometimes, it's good to get away from it and be a fan. I think I used my time wisely."

Before landing on the disabled list, Bryant was slashing .280/.383/.481 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs.

Troy Provost-Heron is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant