Cubs News: Kris Bryant’s return could not come at a better time

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Cubs open a series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight as star third baseman Kris Bryant makes his return to the lineup.

The Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant last played a game two weeks ago. After suffering a sprained finger on his left hand, the club chose to shelve Bryant officially. The Cubs have been holding steady in his absence, playing nearly .500 baseball in that span.

While that may seem disappointing, the club has maintained a three-game lead in the National League Central. Taking into account Bryant’s absence, a 6-7 record over his 13 missed games is not terrible. As we officially enter into the final month of the season, the timing to get Bryant back could not be better. The Pirates are the basement dwellers of the division, and it will hopefully allow Chicago to build on their division lead.

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This year, part of the team’s struggles, at least offensively, has been Bryant’s slow start out of the box. He is slashing .177/.271/.323 through 16 games, dealing with wrist and hand issues and primarily leading to a downtick in production. His 63 wRC+ is bottom ten in the league, and Bryant is striking out at a 28.6 percent rate through 70 plate appearances.

Bryant was in South Bend yesterday to continue his rehab, and his progression must have been seen as enough for him to be activated today. As noted above, the Cubs open a new series tonight versus the Pirates. In his only game facing Pittsburgh this season, Bryant finished 3-for-5, two runs, two walks.

In his career against the division rival, Bryant holds a .357/.472/.612 line with a 188 wRC+. He has feasted off their pitching. Tonight’s starter Chad Kuhl gives Bryant the ultimate opportunity to right his offensive woes. In 20 career at-bats facing Kuhl, Bryant has slashed .400/.500/.600 with a 1.100 OPS and four doubles.

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Regarding his playing time tonight, that is still to be seen. It would surprise no one to see Bryant take on the DH role with David Ross slotting Chad Kuhl in at third base. The Cubs will want to give Bryant a chance to return slowly, and keeping him from defensive duties in his first game back will do just that. Nevertheless, it will be great for everyone to have Bryant back in the lineup, and it can only go up from here.