Chicago Cubs' Bryant feels like he's ready to go
There are two key players for the Chicago Cubs if they're going to get to the postseason and make a deep run in 2019.
One is starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who is coming off an injury-shortened season.
The other is third baseman Kris Bryant, whose 2018 was interrupted by a shoulder ailment.
So far, so good on Darvish. The same seems to be true of Bryant, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2016.
Spring-training stats don't mean a whole lot, but Bryant is off to a good start in the Cactus League, and, more important, the left shoulder seems to be OK.
A winter of rest and getting back into the cage have put Bryant back on a track he hopes will make him a force in the Cubs' lineup again.
Through Tuesday, Bryant was 4-for-11 in the Cactus League with 2 home runs, including one in his first at-bat of the spring.
"It's a good start for me," he said. "I feel good about it. I'm super excited."
Bryant's shoulder put him on the disabled list twice, from June 23-July 11 and from July 23-Sept. 1. That limited him to 102 games during which he went .272/.374/.460 with 13 homers and 52 RBI.
Bryant hit 39 homers and drove in 102 during his MVP season and then hit 29 and drove 73 in 2017. He got off to a good start in the field in Arizona this spring, and that part of his game can't be neglected either.
"In the off-season, you're hitting all the time," he said. "You're focused on that. Sometimes the fielding part gets neglected a little bit. So you get here early and you try to get as many groundballs as you can. When you go out in the field, you get one in the game, a couple in the game, you feel good about it, especially if you make the play."
Bryant figures to get backup at third base from David Bote, who played in 56 games there last season. Javier Baez can play third, as can newly signed Daniel Descalso.
Even with Bryant's trials and tribulations over the last year or so, his lifetime OPS is a solid .900, and his OPS-plus (where 100 is league average) is 137.
Although it may seem hard to believe, Bryant says this is not the first time he has been doubted.
"No, not at all, man," he said. "As easy as it may have seemed for me my first four years, even going back to college and high school, there's always people that say things, and the negative stuff always stands out more because negativity kind of sells. People want to read that stuff. That's kind of the stuff that stuck out to me.
"But it really wasn't the first time I've been doubted. That's why I think I'm where I'm at in terms of my abilities in baseball, because I read one thing, and it just motivates me to either shut that person up or prove them wrong. I've been doing that pretty much my whole life."