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updated: 9/2/2014 11:22 PM

Cubs' call-ups don't include Bryant

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  • Jorge Soler watches his RBI single during the Cubs' 4-run first inning Tuesday night. Starlin Castro sprained his left ankle scoring on the play.

    Jorge Soler watches his RBI single during the Cubs' 4-run first inning Tuesday night. Starlin Castro sprained his left ankle scoring on the play.
    Associated Press


There was enough cold water thrown all over the place concerning Cubs core players Tuesday to make any ice-bucket challenge seem like a nice warm bath.

First came the news that all-star first baseman Anthony Rizzo is out indefinitely -- and maybe for the rest of the season -- with a lower-back strain.

During the Cubs' 7-1 victory over the reeling Milwaukee Brewers, shortstop Starlin Castro gave the Wrigley Field crowd a scare when he slid awkwardly into home plate in the first inning and had to come out of the game.

Castro limped off the field under his own power, and the Cubs said he suffered a sprained left ankle. Although initial tests apparently showed no fracture, Castro went for an MRI.

"It just looked very awkward," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "Anytime you see somebody cringe in pain, you kind of grab yourself. He didn't want to come out of the game."

And while it should have come as no surprise, third-base prospect Kris Bryant was not among the seven September call-ups the Cubs made Tuesday.

The good news for Cubs fans is that Rizzo and Castro should be OK in the long run and that Bryant should be up sometime early next season after hitting 43 home runs and putting up an OPS of 1.098 between Class AA Tennessee and Class AAA Iowa this season.

Cubs President Theo Epstein made an interesting comment about the length of Bryant's season in 2015.

"Come back ready to go for what we hope will be a seven-month season next year," Epstein said. "We think he's close enough where he can start setting his sights on the big leagues. Whenever that time comes, we don't know, but it's getting closer.

"There's a good chance that if he continues to develop he'll spend the vast majority of 2015 in the big leagues. If we find a way to be a really competitive team, we're looking to play seven months, not six."

You do the math. A seven-month season means "postseason," and it's the first real mention by a member of the Cubs management team that October baseball could be within reach.

How Bryant gets those seven months of baseball is another interesting story. Because the Cubs will want to keep from starting Bryant's free-agency clock at the start of next season, they could bring him up in, say, the third week of April.

It takes six full seasons of major-league service for a player to gain free agency, and by delaying Bryant's debut, the Cubs would get essentially a free extra year of service time out of him before he can hit the open market.

But first things first. Epstein had nothing but praise for the 22-year-old Bryant, the Cubs' first-round draft pick last year.

"Kris had a remarkable season," Epstein said. "He's got to be the minor league player of the year in everybody's book. I told him the other day, 'You did everything you could possibly do as a first-year professional to impress and make us proud as an organization.'

"We're just as proud of the way he handled himself off the field, treating everybody with respect and class, as we are with the accomplishments on the field.

"He did everything he can do. He lived up to his end of the bargain. I just told him the simple fact we're not in a pennant race and for a first-year professional who didn't miss any time, it's a long season, a long grind, whether he realizes it or not. It's appropriate to go home and rest."

Epstein went further.

"I'll say it," he declared. "He's as advanced and mature and special a prospect as we've had. He's as low-maintenance as we've had and I think handles new situations extremely well, if you look how he adjusted to the leap from Double-A to Triple-A or any of the other transitions he made last year.

"It just seems like nothing flusters him. He is thoughtful, cerebral, a well-adjusted mature guy. I think if anyone an jump into the big-league picture in the middle of a season and not miss a beat, it's Kris Bryant."

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