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Kris Bryant makes his return against the Chicago Cubs - 'It's going to be a work in progress'

Patrick Lyons Avatar
September 12, 2023

For the first time in 51 days, Kris Bryant’s name appeared in the starting lineup for the Colorado Rockies.

Bryant was activated from the injured list on Monday before a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs following a fractured left index finger suffered during a hit-by-pitch on July 22, costing him 45 games. 

“I think he feels a little bit now, but then you know the pain lessens, you get a little bit of flexibility in your finger. He started doing more baseball activities. And I think he gets to the point where I think it’s good enough to go. And I think that’s where we are,” manager Bud Black said pre-game. “In the last 10 days, he’s ramped up his hitting. He’s ramped up his defense, he’s kept his legs going the whole time. And I think Kris felt as though he was ready to play the game.”

Batting cleanup for Colorado against his former club, Bryant singled in his second at-bat when third baseman Nick Madrigal ranged to his left and couldn’t come up with the ball. He finished the night 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

“We don’t have many games left, so I figured that there’s probably going to be some rust anyway. The only way to really get rid of that is play a whole week in Triple-A and I just didn’t want to do that,” Bryant said post-game of his return without a rehab assignment. “I kind of went into it with my expectations being a little bit lower, but still I felt I had some good at bats, saw a lot of pitches, playing a new position. All that. I think overall it was pretty good success for me.”

He looked comfortable defensively at first base, his first game at the position since his penultimate month with Chicago on June 28, 2021. 

“Felt good. I mean, it’s been nice to kind of take ground balls as I worked my way up to this, so I wasn’t completely, you know, I didn’t really quite feel naked out there,” Bryant shared. “But it’s going to be a work in progress. I know that, but happy to be out there again and taking part in these games and continue to work on it.”

Black said the young players on the roster would still receive playing time. True to form, Colorado’s lineup featured all three out their touted rookies — Ezequiel Tovar, Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle — plus 25-year-old Elehuris Montero as the designated hitter.

“There’s a number of guys we want to see continue to play. We want (Hunter) Goodman to play, we want (Brenton) Doyle to play. We want (Elehuris) Montero to play. We want (Brendan) Rodgers to play. We still want to see some of the (Sean) Bouchards,” before Black added, “So we’ll mix and match.” 

Goodman came off the bench to pinch-hit for Alan Trejo in a critical spot with the Rockies trailing 3-1 with two outs in the seventh. Elias Díaz had singled before Montero was hit by a pitch. The 23-year-old rookie responded with a double that scored Díaz from second to give Goodman his 13th RBI in 13 games.

Doyle, who sat out of the three game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, followed with a single that scored two more to give Colorado a 4-3 lead. All three runs came against reliever José Cuas, who had a 1.17 ERA (15.1 IP, 2 ER) since being acquired by Chicago at the trade deadline. 

“It’s been really fun to watch everybody kind of grind through some things,” Bryant said of his youngest teammates. “Montero’s turning it around, having some really good at bats. (Tovar’s) been doing it all year. Doyle had a big hit for us today. Hunter Goodman doing it. I mean, there’s a lot of things to be really proud about today. A good game, good atmosphere. A lot of Cubs fans cheering. So, overall, you know, there’s a lot to be taken from today.”

Bryant will still serve time in the outfield. He’s played mostly in right with one game in left field after playing there exclusively last season. The 31-year-old came up as a third baseman and even spent time in center field during his younger days, so he’s prepared to move around, especially to create more opportunities for others.  

Monday was just Bryant’s 108th game with the Rockies since signing a seven-year, $182 million deal ahead of last season. Even if he plays the final 19 games of the team’s remaining schedule, he won’t reach 162 games played with Colorado until May 7 of next season, at the earliest. 

Though the bone from his fractured left index finger has pretty much healed, there’s still some discomfort and pain he’ll need to play through during the final three weeks.

“The skin is sensitive still because I haven’t used it in a long time. And then just kind of like it gets swollen a little bit here and there. But that’s totally — (you) can work through those type of things,” Bryant said.

In a corresponding move to activate Bryant, IF/OF Cole Tucker was designated for assignment, leaving the Rockies 40-man roster at 39.

Nighttime Notables

With the loss, Colorado dropped to 3-17 over their last 20 games since Aug. 20 with a -59 run differential.

  • Kyle Freeland took a no-decision after allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out two and walked none in his 12th quality start of the season. It’s his fourth start of the season and 12th of his career going six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs with no walks.
  • Nolan Jones batted third for the first time this season, going 1-for-4 with a single and strikeout. Jones recorded his 15th outfield assist of the season during the sixth inning by throwing out Seiya Suzuki at the plate. Jones is in sole possession of third for the most in franchise history for a single season, trailing on Brad Hawpe (16 in 2006) and Dante Bichette (17 in 1999). Measured at 102.7 mph, Jones’ outfield assist was the fastest by a Rockies outfielder in the Statcast Era (since 2015), and fastest in the Majors since Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 103.4 mph assist on June 19, 2018.
  • Charlie Blackmon led off with a double and has reached base in 23 of 24 games since being reinstated from the injured list on Aug. 14, slashing .314/.423/.465 over that span.
  • Elehuris Montero went 1-for-2 with a run scored and extended his career-best on-base streak to 19 games since Aug. 14, during which he is slashing .383/.472/.600. He was hit by a pitch twice, tying a franchise record for most in a game with 18 others. Montero is the first to do it since Connor Joe last season.
  • Pete Crow-Armstrong entered the game for the Cubs as a pinch runner in his Major League debut and was caught stealing. He made one plate appearance, a sacrifice bunt in the ninth.

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