Friday, February 28, 2014
Kris Bryant homers in first spring at-bat
By Jesse Rogers
Tempe, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs’ No. 1 draft pick from last June, Kris Bryant, arrived on the baseball scene in dramatic fashion after crushing a long home run off of Los Angeles Angels reliever Jarrett Grube in his first spring at-bat as a professional, on Friday in a 15-3 Cubs defeat.
Not much went right in the game, but Bryant’s home run has more meaning than any outcome for the Cubs right now.
He worked the count to 3-2 before fouling off several pitches and then launching the ball over the 420-foot sign to dead-center field in the seventh inning at Diablo Stadium.
You could not have asked for a better at-bat from a young player in his first game. He worked it like a veteran.
“It was a good first at-bat,” he said on the field afterward. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Bryant said he hit a slider that Grube left up in the zone after Grube had thrown one in the dirt earlier in the at-bat. That’s the advantage of seeing more pitches.
The home run drove in Cubs’ top pick of 2012, Albert Almora, moments after he doubled to left in his first at-bat this spring.
Bryant and Almora are two key players to the Cubs' future. Both are slated to start the season at the lower levels of the Cubs minor league system -- Almora at Class-A and Bryant at Double-A -- but if they dominate, there they’ll move up quickly, according to Cubs brass.
Bryant took home the most valuable player award in college last season and again in the Arizona Fall league this past October and November. He has power that isn’t easily found in baseball anymore. He hit 31 home runs for the University of San Diego last season, 10 more than the next best hitter.
“I’ve just been blessed with power,” Bryant said. “I’m putting it to use so hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and give it all I got and get a win.
“Home runs don’t mean anything if you don’t win the game, but, for myself, it was a good performance.”
Meanwhile, Almora is already a slick outfielder many scouts think can play defense in the majors now. If the Cubs' rebuilding efforts are to be successful, a lot of it will fall on these two players.
“Hopefully, we can be doing that [Friday’s results] a lot in the future,” Bryant said.
And, hopefully, the Cubs will be seeing their youth at Wrigley Field soon, as well.
For the second time this week they had an all-top-prospect team on the field late in the game on Friday. When they all make it to Chicago isn’t exactly clear, but the dye is beginning to be cast. Bryant’s home run in his first at-bat might be a symbol of better days to come for the Cubs. They’ve endured enough losing ones.
Maybe Bryant’s attitude -- to go along with his prodigious power -- will start the turnaround.
“It’s just a game,” he said. “Don’t put pressure on yourself, go out there with a smile on your face and good things usually come from that.”
They did on Friday.