Triple-A Iowa played its home opener Friday night and the hot topic was the one player who wasn’t there, Kris Bryant, who made his big league debut at Wrigley Field for the Cubs.
Iowa infielder Chris Valaika talked to Bryant before he left for Chicago, and had no doubts the 23-year-old third baseman will succeed.
“When we spoke, it was about just handling the moment, calm it down and let it happen,” Valaika said Friday. “He’s a great ballplayer, he won’t have to do anything different when he gets there, just trust your instincts, and he will do what he did at every level once he gets there.”
Valaika does see challenges ahead for Bryant but believes he can handle them.
“Everything’s escalated, the media presence doesn’t go away, and the game is crisper — it’s the big leagues for a reason,” Valaika said. “Those guys are the best of the best. They find a weakness and they exploit it until you close that hole. He will make adjustments, they will find a new one, and he will close it again. He’s a professional, I’m really happy for him.”
Bryant discovered just how nasty James Shields’ changeup is, striking out three times in his four at-bats, and grounding out in his final appearance in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Padres.
Iowa manager Marty Pevey, who told Bryant he was being promoted on Thursday night in New Orleans, said the biggest challenge for the talented infielder will be living up to expectations.
“The hype, that’s the biggest obstacle, and he’s handled it great,” Pevey said. “He’s jumped five levels in a year and a half, they’ve piled it all up on him and it has continued to stay piled, but he’s so level headed that he can still handle it.”
Who’s next? It could be shortstop Addison Russell, who was the top rated prospect in the Athletics organization before he was traded to the Cubs last July. Russell believes the pressure to succeed in Chicago is even greater than in Oakland.
“I’ve been the No. 1 prospect in Oakland before and its nothing like it is compared to here because the fans, there’s a lot more fans and it’s just a great organization as well,” Russell said.
The I-Cubs felt Bryant was ready.
“He will do just fine,” Pevey said. “I have no doubt.”
— reported by James Hilchen in Des Moines
Every Friday home game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will wear a different t-shirt to show support for an organization. On Friday, he was wearing a shirt for the Rehab Institute of Chicago.
“It’s all about having the opportunity to participate in sports,” Maddon said.
The RIC serves kids ages 7-16 who are living with physical disabilities. The center helps them play softball, basketball and participate in track. Maddon visited the center in January, and was impressed by their facilities and staff.
* The t-shirt is part of Maddon’s “Respect Community” initiative. After every Friday home game, he will represent a different Chicago nonprofit and wear that organization’s t-shirt during his post-game news conference.
— Carrie Muskat
* Dexter Fowler had three hits, and is batting .385 in his last six games. He also hit a ground rule double that bounced into the ivy in left field. The Cubs argued that because you could see the ball, it was in play.
“I said, ‘At least give me a triple,'” Fowler said.
* Joe Maddon was ejected for the first time this season when he questioned balls and strikes in the seventh inning. After the game, Maddon said he didn’t blame the umpires.
* Jorge Soler has hit safely in four straight games and seven of the last eight. He leads the Cubs with eight RBIs.
* Jonathan Herrera and James Shields played a cat and mouse game in the third, with Herrera eventually scoring on a wild pitch. The Padres had shifted their infield to the right during Anthony Rizzo’s at-bat.
“Any time we’re given that opportunity, I want us to do that,” Maddon said.
— Carrie Muskat
Wil Myers hit a three-run go-ahead homer in the seventh to lead the Padres to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs and spoil Kris Bryant’s Major League debut. Will Middlebrooks also homered for the Padres and James Shields, who picked up the win, striking out nine over six innings.
Bryant went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but played solid third base in front of 32,138 at Wrigley Field.
“We did bring him up for his glove, didn’t we?” manager Joe Maddon said of the 2014 Minor League player of the year who belted 43 homers last year.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life and I’m out there trying to do too much in those four at-bats,” Bryant said of his big league debut. “It was a good day for me — my first game and the guys were treating me great. I couldn’t ask for a better day, honestly.”
If it helps Cubs fans to relax, remember Bryant went 0-for-5 in his pro debut at short-season Boise in 2013. He seems to have rebounded well after that.
“Of course, your first game, you want to go out there and do everything, and hit four home runs in one at-bat and you want to show you’re here to help the team win,” Bryant said. “I didn’t get any results today but no reason to hang my head. I’ve had plenty of other debuts in my short career, and some good, some bad. That’s the name of the game really.”
Said Maddon: “Believe me, he’s going to be fine, he’ll be very productive here. That’s just one game.”
* Up next: Kyle Hendricks faces Tyson Ross on Saturday in the second game of the three-game series at Wrigley Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
Besides selecting Kris Bryant’s contract, the Cubs made other roster moves on Friday.
* Third baseman Mike Olt was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 15, with a hairline fracture in his right wrist. Olt was to get a cast on Friday and could be sidelined at least three weeks.
* Right-handed pitcher Neil Ramirez was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 16, with right shoulder inflammation. The good news is that an MRI on Thursday showed there was no structural damage in Ramirez’s shoulder.
* Outfielder Chris Denorfia was activated from the disabled list. He had been sidelined with a mild left hamstring strain.
* For those interested in numbers, Bryant will wear No. 17. First base coach Brandon Hyde, who was wearing No. 17, will now wear No. 16.
In Kris Bryant’s first professional at-bat for Class A Boise, he struck out, the first of five K’s in that game.
“We had to remind ourselves not to over-react to that, too,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday. “Sure enough, in a couple weeks he was dominating and moving up the ladder.”
In his first Major League at-bat Friday, Bryant struck out on three pitches, swinging at a cutter and two changeups from the Padres’ James Shields. With two outs in the Chicago first, Anthony Rizo walked to set up Bryant’s first at-bat. The Cubs super-hyped prospect was promoted from Triple-A Iowa.
Why have Bryant bat fourth in his big league debut?
“I just thought the names read better that way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said about the lineup.
When Bryant met with Maddon prior to the game, the manager explained his reasoning.
“I said, ‘I could’ve hit you anywhere, but I put you in the fourth spot and I know it’s not going to bother you and beyond that, my expectations are respect 90 feet and enjoy yourself,'” Maddon said.
— Carrie Muskat
Mike Olt’s unfortunate break prompted the Cubs to promote top prospect Kris Bryant sooner than they had
Olt was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his right wrist, which he suffered when he was hit by a pitch last Saturday
in Colorado, and the Cubs found themselves short-handed at third base. Enter Bryant.
“The timing wasn’t exactly the way we scripted it out,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday. “We
would’ve waited a little longer, and let [Bryant] finish his development and put him on the road in a different situation
but with the needs of the big league team and the way he was playing down there, this makes as much sense as anything.”
Bryant, who led the Major Leagues this spring with nine home runs, was batting .321 (9-for-28) in seven games with Triple-A Iowa, and hit his third home run in his last at-bat on Thursday against New Orleans. He nearly had another in that game but was robbed with a great catch at the right field wall by the Zephyrs Cole Gillespie.
Epstein prefers to have the top prospects open on the road — the Cubs did that with Javy Baez and Jorge Soler last year —
but the current Chicago third basemen are a combined 4-for-27, worst in the National League, with one home run and one RBI, plus a .233 on-base percentage.
“We would’ve done it a little later but you can’t script everything out in baseball,” Epstein said. “It’s a great day and
we hope the start of something special.”
As for any discussions regarding Bryant’s service time, Epstein dismissed it as being a non-issue. By delaying his
promotion 12 days into the season rather than have him on the 25-man Opening Day roster, the Cubs will gain an additional year of service time. The 12-day countdown ended Friday.
“There is no service time issue,” Epstein said. “He’s here ready to play baseball. The Major League team had a need. He’s a really good player and ready to go. I just talked to him, big smile on his face, and he’s ready to be a Cub for a long
— Carrie Muskat
Kris Bryant will make his Major League debut on Friday and bat fourth for the Cubs at Wrigley Field against the Padres. Here’s the lineup:
Cubs fans eager to see Kris Bryant at Wrigley Field will get their chance on Friday. The team’s top prospect was expected to be promoted, and not just because the timing works for his service time. The Cubs need a third baseman.
Mike Olt, who was hit on the right wrist by a pitch last Saturday in Denver, saw a hand specialist on Thursday and has a hairline fracture, which will sideline him for a minimum of three weeks, according to a source. The Cubs would not confirm that Bryant was coming, but the source said it was likely considering Olt’s situation.
Bryant hit his third home run in seven games with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader against New Orleans, a three-run shot. He was batting .321.
Theo Epstein has maintained they wanted Bryant to open the season in the Minor Leagues so he could get into a good rhythm.
“His development is an important factor and the needs of the big league team as well,” Epstein said earlier this week.
Olt’s situation has forced the Cubs decision. They have been using Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara at third while Olt heals, and even inserted Chris Coghlan there — the first time he’s played the position since 2013. So far, Chicago’s third basemen are batting .148 (4-for-27), worst in the National League, with one home run and one RBI, plus a .233 on-base percentage.
The countdown for Bryant’s promotion began in spring when he batted .425 and led the Major Leagues with nine home runs — and hit two more in games that didn’t count. The hot topic has been service time. By delaying his promotion 12 days into the season, the Cubs gain an additional year of service time. The 12-day countdown ends Friday.
ESPN Chicago was first to report that Bryant was to be called up Friday.
— Carrie Muskat
For those of you keeping tabs on Kris Bryant’s whereabouts, the third baseman and top Cubs prospect was batting third for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader in New Orleans. What may be even more interesting about Iowa’s lineup is that Addison Russell was playing second base. Javier Baez has yet to rejoin the team following the passing of his sister.
As most Bryant watchers know, by delaying his promotion 12 days into the season, the Cubs gain an additional year of service time. The 12-day countdown ends Friday. When will Bryant be with the Cubs?
“I have not had a date given to me by anybody, Jed [Hoyer, general manager] or Theo,” manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday.
Here’s the lineup for Iowa’s first game Thursday:
Adron Chambers CF
Addison Russell 2B
Kris Bryant 3B
Chris Valaika SS
Mike Baxter 1B
Rubi Silva RF
Rafael Lopez C
Kevin Brown LF
Eric Jokisch P
— Carrie Muskat