Olt injury scare sparks more Bryant debate
Current Cubs third baseman taking calls for prospect in stride
DENVER -- The aura of Kris Bryant hangs over the Cubs. He may have been in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday night, along with the rest of the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa affiliate, but he was the center of conversation in the aftermath of the Cubs' 9-5 victory against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Cubs third baseman Mike Olt took a two-strike fastball from Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino off the outer bone on his right wrist in the ninth inning Saturday. He fell to his knees, grabbing the wrist in pain.
And the spring-long debate over super prospect Bryant and his season-opening exile to Triple-A Iowa was back on center stage, again. It's part of life on the North Side of Chicago these days.
The good news for the Cubs is they have learned to live with the constant scrutiny of the media and the fans over Bryant's absence from the big league roster.
"It will go away when he gets here," manager Joe Maddon said. "We get these situations every spring, and this year it happens to be about us. … He's going to be here and it will be for many years."
Right now, Bryant is not, however, and it's the opinion of agent Scott Boras that the only reason is the Cubs want to make sure Bryant misses the necessary 12 days of big league time to keep this season from counting as one of the six years of service time he needs to become a free agent.
Bryant's defense might not be sparkling, but the fact that he hit .425 with nine home runs and 15 RBIs this spring has fed the conspiracy theory.
Saturday was Day 7 of the Bryant watch, and he celebrated it by hitting his first home run for Iowa, rebounding from a 1-for-8 start to the year by going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in addition to the home run.
So when Olt was removed from the Cubs' game at Coors Field after being hit by the pitch, it touched off a Twitter frenzy from the fans anxious for the arrival of Bryant.
The fact that Olt underwent X-rays that showed no signs of a break in the wrist, and that the severity of the injury was mild enough that he dressed and left Coors Field without even having a wrap on his wrist didn't seem to matter. Neither did the fact that Olt himself homered for the Cubs earlier in the game Saturday.
Olt is mature enough to handle it. He was one of the game's top prospects a year ago, himself. Olt was ranked the second-best prospect in the Rangers' system back in July 2013, when the Cubs acquired him as part of a package for right-hander Matt Garza. An inconsistent Cubs debut last year (.160 in 89 games), however, saw him quickly overshadowed by the quick-rising Bryant, ranked the second best prospect in all of baseball this spring by MLB.com.
"As I've said before, he deserves all the hype he can get," Olt said. "He's one of the best in the Minor Leagues, and one of the best I've seen. So the fact that he's getting [attention] is a good thing."
That speaks volumes about Olt and his professionalism. While the outside world clamors for Bryant to get his job, Olt offers praise for the prospect.
"I don't even check Twitter anymore," Olt said with a slight smile.
But then while the outside world was on Bryant watch Saturday night, Olt had concerns of his own after taking that fastball of the right wrist. His initial reaction was fear.
"I wasn't in a good state, because I couldn't feel anything," Olt said. "I think it was just the shock of getting hit. Once I was walking away, I definitely felt it. I was moving it around, so I wasn't as nervous."
Olt could exhale after having the X-ray.
"It's a scary spot to get hit, because there's not much meat around [the wrist bone]," Olt said. "So anything above 90 [mph] to the bone is not something you want. It was good for me [to have a negative X-ray]. I'll be able to sleep [Saturday night]."
Olt said he hopes the wrist is limber enough so that he can play in Sunday's series finale. The big league job is his, for now, and he wants every chance he can get to prove he deserves it.