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Count Bryant among Votto's biggest admirers

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- When the Cubs' Kris Bryant was at first base, he had a chance to chat with his favorite player, the Reds' Joey Votto.

"[Votto] said, 'Your approach looks a lot better this year,'" Bryant said Wednesday. "I said, 'Thank you. I feel a lot better.'

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CHICAGO -- When the Cubs' Kris Bryant was at first base, he had a chance to chat with his favorite player, the Reds' Joey Votto.

"[Votto] said, 'Your approach looks a lot better this year,'" Bryant said Wednesday. "I said, 'Thank you. I feel a lot better.'

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"He's the best player ever," Bryant said of Votto. "He's my favorite player. I love watching him, I love talking to him. He's a special player. I think he gets a lot of [grief] about his walks and working his at-bats and some people want him to swing more, but he does an unbelievable job and you know he's going to give you a great at-bat every time he's up there. He's definitely a guy I look up to and can learn from."

Just so none of his teammates are jealous, Bryant was quick to point out that Votto is his favorite who is not in a Cubs uniform. Votto entered Wednesday needing to reach base twice to tie Ted Williams for the longest streak (20 consecutive games) of reaching base at least twice.

"It's not that he's doing it this series, but he's doing it his whole career, which is impressive," Bryant said of Votto. "He's a future Hall of Famer, for sure."

• Bryant entered Wednesday's game with 54 RBIs, behind last year's pace, but manager Joe Maddon isn't concerned about his third baseman.

"I'm going to say that by the end of the season, that number will look pretty good," Maddon said of Bryant, who drove in 65 runs in the first half in 2016 and finished with a career-high 102. "I like where he's at."

Bryant was batting .389 in August, and is trending in the right direction. The difference? He made a mental adjustment.

"I just wanted to hit stuff up the middle and line drives up the middle," Bryant said. "I just went up there and thought that and was able to do it. I took that and ran with it."

• Maddon hasn't caught anyone coming in too early during American Legion week. The stretch is designed to give the players a breather, and they aren't supposed to report until 4 p.m. CT for a 7:05 p.m. CT game.

"It's different," Bryant said. "I think some of us have been sneaking in a little early -- don't tell a certain manager. I think it's good this time of the year when things are hectic and might speed you up a little bit. A division race and playoffs and all this stuff outside, it's good to stay at home a little longer."

Bryant has been sleeping later or watching more movies.

Maddon admitted he hasn't been strict about the time.

"It's like the honor system," Maddon said. "I do want to see somebody walk in and plop down a bottle and say they got here at 3:15."

The penalty for showing up early is a $100 bottle of wine, and the players must have a receipt.

Koji Uehara, on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with a neck strain, threw his first bullpen session on Wednesday and will do so again on Saturday. There is no timetable for his return.

• Bryant and his wife Jessica visited patients at Advocate Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., on Wednesday. Bryant asked the kids to sign a pair of white cleats and he will wear them this week.

Kyle Schwarber stopped by Chicago Fire Department Engine 112 on Wednesday to meet with the firefighters as part of his Neighborhood Heroes program. Besides having lunch with the crew, Schwarber delivered a new 65-inch television and video game equipment for the firehouse.

Video: Schwarber visits local Chicago firehouse

Inspired by the sacrifices of everyday heroes, like his dad -- a decorated police chief -- and a family filled with first responders, Schwarber's Neighborhood Heroes campaign honors and assists first responders. On Sept. 10, he will host his inaugural fundraiser, Schwarber's Block Party, to help raise funds for first responders.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant, Joey Votto