The defensive versatility that Kris Bryant has displayed over the past month has been well-documented. While the Cubs have been hit with a wave of injury setbacks, Bryant has moved all over the diamond to help manager David Ross make his lineups work.
Ross now has a different challenge: picking where to place Bryant on the field as Chicago's planned roster comes together again. The latest player to return was center fielder Ian Happ, who was activated from the 10-day injured list prior to Saturday's game in Detroit.
"We'll find a spot for him," Ross said about Bryant. "He's willing to do whatever, which is a great luxury that I've got."
At the moment, Ross has the help of the designated hitter for the weekend series in Detroit. With Happ back and in center field, Bryant got the start in left and Joc Pederson (usually in left) was slotted in as the Cubs' DH.
Another piece to the puzzle is utility man Matt Duffy, who has added a high-contact bat to the lineup while serving as the de facto third baseman dating back to late April. Duffy's performance has played a role in Bryant not having started at third since April 20.
"It just is part of the job of managing," Ross said, "is keeping guys fresh and healthy. And when the guys are swinging the bat really well, finding a spot for them."
Entering Saturday, Bryant had more innings in the outfield (160 1/3) than at third base (121 2/3) on the season. Since April 20, Bryant has started 10 games in left, five in center, four in right and one at first base. In five games, he has moved among multiple positions.
Bryant's shift to the outfield dates back to April 21, when Pederson landed on the IL with a wrist issue. Then on May 2, which was the last game Pederson was sidelined, Happ and Nico Hoerner were injured in a collision in center in Cincinnati. That group is all back from the IL, while center fielder Jake Marisnick (right hamstring) remains shelved.
"[Bryant has] really given us a lot of depth," Happ said, "for a team that's lost a lot of guys in the midst of a couple-week span there, and kind of in and out. For him to be able to be versatile ... that's been huge for us."
Ross said Bryant will remain in the outfield "for now," but the manager will continue to mix and match based on matchups, days off for regulars and other factors. Ross also wants to be sure that Bryant gets enough pregame reps at third again before moving back to the hot corner.
"The reaction time is real," Ross said. "So yeah, we'll try to get him some work over there before we put him back over there."
• Right-hander Jake Arrieta said he was "a little stale" in his first start back in the rotation on Friday, but he showed no ill effects of the cut on his right thumb that sent him to the IL. Arrieta spun his fourth quality start in seven outings this year.
"I was able to maintain a pretty good grip on everything," Arrieta said. "The seams on the ball weren't really a big factor. I think that over the next week, it'll toughen up a little bit more, which is good. But, yeah, the thumb really wasn't an issue."
• Ross said there is no update on a timetable for Marisnick, but the manager noted that the center fielder did do some running at Comerica Park on Saturday morning.
"I saw him running some stadium stairs," Ross said. "He's definitely moving around and was moving good today. I told him he was moving better than I can."
• The Cubs' 4-2 win over the Tigers on Friday night snapped a run of seven consecutive games decided by one run for the North Siders. That marked the longest such streak for Chicago since Aug. 23-30, 1996 (eight one-run games in a row).
• To clear a spot on the active roster for Happ's return, utility man Ildemaro Vargas was designated for assignment.
"I'm just trying to gain that trust again, gain that timing, rhythm. Get up there and be able to react to pitches and trust that. I had two good at-bats [Friday]. I think that's what I want to see, is the consistency." -- Right fielder Jason Heyward on his slow start this season