Rockies get Bryant back ahead of tough stretch

June 28th, 2022

DENVER -- Kris Bryant announced he was back for Monday’s game against the Dodgers and spoke honestly. There may be setbacks. He hated missing games as the Rockies dipped to last place in the National League West. He’d have hated it as much if the team were winning.

But once Bryant was done talking, he proved the health of his back, after missing 44 total games -- 30 of them Rockies losses -- with two injured list stints.

Finally done with interviews in stocking feet, Bryant sat, bent over, put on his shoes and tied them without recoiling or leaning awkwardly to avoid pain. It wasn’t that way in late May when Bryant’s comeback lasted two games.

“Just simple bending over and putting my shoes on or any of that, I don’t wince at that anymore,” said Bryant, who went 1-for-4 with a single in the Rockies' 4-0 win over L.A. at Coors Field. “When I can do that, and really feel I can go out there and play, that’s a good feeling. That’s the key test point for me throughout this whole thing -- how I feel when I put my shoes on.

“Well, you guys didn’t let me put my shoes on, so I don’t know.”

With that little mood-lightening chuckle, Bryant could turn his attention to being the important lineup cog the Rockies envisioned when they signed him for seven years and $182 million during Spring Training.

Monday started a run of 17 straight games against NL West clubs -- clearly important for a Rockies team that believed itself to be a possible contender before Bryant’s injury but entered the three-game set against the Dodgers sitting 11 games under .500 (31-42).

The Rockies were 10-6 before Bryant left the lineup the first time. Granted, he hadn’t homered and it’s possible the quick run-up to the season was a factor in his back worsening by the day. But his presence gave the lineup a more potent feel, and manager Bud Black has suspected all along that many players pressed with Bryant away.

Bryant, who played just two injury rehab games in his first stint at Triple-A Albuquerque, played in four this time around, but he allowed that there may be some rust. The goal is to get back to being himself -- which, by his definition, is a guy who isn’t going to try to put the entire team on his back (pun intended, maybe) but one who trusts that what he contributes will make the team better.

“I guess I’ve been under pressure going back to college, too -- the pressure of, ‘I’ve got to be the top pick,’” Bryant said. “Then, being a top pick, I’ve got to go out and win Rookie of the Year, win a World Series. I’ve been doing that for so long, I don’t even need to think about that. I’ve had the pressures of going through pressures and all that.

“I don’t think I need to change anything, and I won’t. That’s just who I am. Just go out there and play baseball, try to help the guys, share some smiles, some laughs, try to win some games. That’s what I’m about.”

In corresponding moves on Monday, Colorado also reinstated Ty Blach from the IL, placed Sean Bouchard (oblique strain) on the 10-day IL and optioned right-handed pitcher Ryan Feltner to Triple-A.

Blach pitched in one injury rehab game, last Wednesday. He was scheduled to throw again on Saturday, but the Rox recalled him to help their bullpen.

“I threw 40 pitches in my last outing, felt great, and was really able to hone in some things mechanically that I hadn’t been able to work on in the middle of a season,” Blach said.