Cubs News: Kris Bryant back in the lineup, urges players to put egos aside

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kris Bryant is back in the Cubs starting lineup Monday after battling an illness.

The 2020 campaign isn’t off to the start Kris Bryant had hoped for. Well, at least not in terms of his individual performance. The 28-year-old former NL MVP and Cubs slugger enters action Monday with just three hits in his first 25 at-bats, good for a .120 average.

He’s battled a lingering elbow issue and, more recently, had a scare with a stomach bug that prompted the Cubs to put him through COVID-19 protocols, including the requirement of two negative tests before returning to action. Bryant never tested positive – but he and the team decided to play it safe, especially in light of outbreaks in Miami and St. Louis.

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"“If we can add another part to our responsibility,” Bryant said, “in that if you do feel something, just stay away and take it as seriously as possible, that’s the only way that we’re going to get through a World Series. I just think it’s important. Put your pride and egos aside, and it could end up helping the rest of your teammates too.”"

Chicago remains the only big league club without a player testing positive so far this year – and it’s not difficult to see why. This group of players has come together in taking the risks associated with the coronavirus seriously and Bryant’s actions are just the latest example.

"“And that’s the right thing to do. That’s how you keep it out of the clubhouse,” Cubs outfielder Ian Happ said, referencing players self-reporting symptoms. “And the actions of one guy don’t affect just the team, don’t affect just the city, they affect the entire league. And it’s important to remember the gravity of that.”"

The Cubs open a two-and-two series against Kansas City Monday night at Wrigley Field. The two teams will play a pair of games at the Friendly Confines before action shifts to Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday. For Monday’s opener, Bryant will start in left field and lead off for first-year manager David Ross.

Hopefully, Bryant can get going offensively. Despite ranking in the 91st percentile in exit velocity and 89th percentile in hard hit rate, the Cubs slugger has little to show for it. His strikeout rate as skyrocketed (all the way to 34.5 percent) – and he’s looked overmatched early on this year, especially on pitches up in the zone.

That might be due to the elbow issue, who knows. Chicago has overcome his absence offensively, running off a 7-2 record to start this abbreviated season and ranking third in the Senior Circuit in OPS, trailing only Miami and Philadelphia who have played just three and four games, respectively, due to COVID-19.

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Ross tapped Bryant as the team’s leadoff hitter this spring – and the move makes a ton of sense. We’re talking about a guy who’s made a lot of contact in his career and, even though he can put up some big-time power numbers, gets on base a lot. Now, it’s a matter of him finding his rhythm and doing what he’s done year-in and year-out in his big league career.