Remotivated Bryant launches homer in first at-bat

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant, right, celebrates with Jason Heyward after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Mesa, Ariz.

    Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant, right, celebrates with Jason Heyward after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Mesa, Ariz.

  • Fans tailgating before Saturday's Cactus League Cubs home opener against the Brewers at Sloan Park.

      Fans tailgating before Saturday's Cactus League Cubs home opener against the Brewers at Sloan Park. Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

 
 

MESA, Ariz. -- Sometimes it doesn't take much to change the course of the conversation and change it on a dime.

Kris Bryant may have done that with one swing of the bat Saturday.

In his first at-bat of the Cactus League season, Bryant launched a 2-run homer to left field against Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson. Jason Heyward, who led off with a single, scored ahead of Bryant. The Cubs went on to win the game 8-4.

Since the end of last season, Bryant had been asked nonstop about the shoulder injury that limited him for much of 2018.

Saturday's homer doesn't count, but it's a start.

"Absolutely," he said. "Stuff around the team and then me personally from last year, it's just nice for me to kind of just move on and focus on this year and not worry about anything else because at the end of the day, I know how good I am and what I bring to the table. And there's no doubt about that."

If it appears Bryant is motivated by the talk, that appearance is accurate.

"Totally," he said. "This game is all about, 'What have you done for me lately?' And boy, did I get to experience that last year. Yeah, that's all I've got to say about that.

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"When you're not playing, you've got a whole lot of time to just sit there and either go through a Twitter rabbit hole or whatever and start seeing things about yourself. And seeing things (like), 'Trade him' and that. I'm like, 'All right, I'm motivated.' Keep 'em coming."

As far as his swing goes, Bryant said he found something mechanically in the cage the past week.

"Just keeping my back elbow super close to my body," he said. "When I'm bad or get away from myself, I start fouling balls off. I think my back elbow is a little disconnected from my body. I was just really jamming my elbow into my side the whole time in the cage, and the baseball was going exactly where I wanted it to go. I've practiced it before, but not like every swing. I've been working on that in the cage."

Here come the pitchers:

The Cubs regular starting pitchers will be on the mound soon. Jen-Ho Tseng started Saturday, and Tyler Chatwood will go Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale.

From Monday-Friday, the Cubs will go with Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Hendricks, respectively.

Maddon pays tribute:

Cubs manager Joe Maddon began Saturday's pregame media session by paying respects to Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo and comedian Brody Stevens, both of whom died last week.

"I did know Nick pretty well when I was working over in the AL East," Maddon said. "Great guy was very kind to me always. I know his reputation is stellar. He's going to be missed.

"Our friend Brody, that was difficult to wrap our minds around. We were looking forward to him coming out here next week. He's always been a fixture during spring training. Played ball at Arizona State. Everybody talks about how fun he was, but just a nice, nice man. Great heart, kind heart. Really going to miss the conversations."

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