Even though Kris Bryant continues to etch his name into the Chicago Cubs’ record books, there have been external narratives (many driven by social media) about his perceived “toughness.”
Bryant hit his 30th and 31st home runs Sunday in the Cubs’ 16-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, helping the team to a series sweep.
Over the years, including this one, Bryant has played with and through knee, shoulder, hand and ankle injuries.
“He can be his own worst critic,” said manager Joe Maddon. “This guy really sets high standards for himself, and so does everybody around him almost to the point that the standards are unsustainable or unreachable. Recently, I sent him an email with some stuff I wanted him to look at. Included, I circled his WAR (wins above replacement). It’s pretty popular these days.
“I said, ‘Realize after five years your number is going to exceed most every player that has ever played here for many years, not just five, and you’re still building on this, brother. He sometimes is underappreciated. I agree with that 100 percent.
“I think he’s going to keep getting better. As he continues to grow in his own skin and is able to process all the stuff that comes his way from the outside in, he’s really going to take off.”
When it comes to questioning a player’s toughness, Maddon said to proceed with caution.
“You’ve got to be careful whenever you’re criticizing somebody else’s mental toughness, physical toughness, their motivation, whether or not you think, ‘They don’t care,’ ” he said. “These guys are on a pretty substantial stage on a nightly basis, and everything they’re doing is scrutinized constantly. Not easy for a 25-, 26-year-old, 23-year-old. Not easy.
“So I think our guys have handled it brilliantly, actually. I’m very proud of them.”
Bryant said there is a certain satisfaction in being able to accomplish what he has accomplished while playing through pain.
“Of course,” he said. “But I think at the end of the day nobody cares if you’re hurt or whatever. If you’re out on the field, all that’s forgotten, and that’s a good thing. If I’m out there, I can play.
“But, yeah, I think after this last week (getting a cortisone shot in his knee), it’s very satisfying when you speak up and say something. And then you, I won’t say fix it, but make it feel a lot better, that’s very satisfying because sometimes people are scared to say something or speak up or look a certain way and think you’re not going to look tough.
“But you’ve got to do what’s best for the team. At that point, I was hurting the team not saying anything, and I’m glad I did.”
Russell to concussion IL:
The Cubs placed shortstop Addison Russell on the seven-day concussion injured list, retroactive to Sept. 12. Russell has been in concussion protocol since last Sunday, when he was hit in the head by a pitched ball at Milwaukee.
Kimbrel throws in bullpen:
Closer Craig Kimbrel threw a bullpen session Sunday as he continues to rehab from right-elbow inflammation.
The Cubs sounded encouraged and said they will know more Monday on Kimbrel’s status. He has been on the injured list, effective Sept. 2.