It was one inning in the Cubs’ second Cactus League game, but Friday’s seventh was a sign of things to come. Kris Bryant belted a two-run homer in his first spring at-bat, driving in Albert Almora, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Cubs lost, 15-3, to the Angels.
All of the so-called core four of Almora, Bryant, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez had at-bats in the seventh. Arismendy Alcantara, another highly touted prospect, popped up to lead off the inning, and Almora, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2012, then doubled. Soler struck out and Bryant followed with a lengthy at-bat that resulted in a 420-foot shot just left of the batter’s eye off a 3-2 slider from the Angels’ Jarrett Grube.
Brett Jackson, another Cubs’ No. 1 pick, walked and Baez, a first-round selection in 2011, lined out sharply to third base to end the inning.
“It was kind of cool — Albert got on with a double, Jorge, he had some good swings, and then I drove in Albert,” Bryant said. “Hopefully, we can do that a lot in the future.”
The Cubs certainly hope so.
Bryant’s career has been on the fast track since the third baseman was selected second overall in last June’s First-Year Player Draft. After he signed with the Cubs, Bryant played two games with the Rookie League team, then was bumped up to short-season Boise for 18 games. His debut there wasn’t nearly as impressive as he struck out in all five at-bats. But Bryant batted .354 and was promoted to high Class A Daytona, where he hit .333 in 16 games with five home runs and five doubles plus 14 RBIs.
And he wasn’t done. The winner of the Golden Spikes award as the top college baseball player of the year, Bryant, 22, played in the Arizona Fall League, and batted .364 with six more home runs, eight doubles and 17 RBIs.
He may be familiar with playing in the desert but this is his first big league camp, and the seventh inning was his first at-bat.
“I felt good up there, I was not nervous at all, and saw a lot of pitches, which was good,” Bryant said. “Home runs don’t mean anything if you don’t win the game, so that’s a little disappointing. For myself, it was a good performance.”
Cubs fans will see a lot of Bryant, Almora, Soler and Baez this spring as new manager Rick Renteria takes advantage of the Cactus League games to gauge the talent in the system. All are projected to open the season in the Minor Leagues. All have seemed very much at home in big league camp.
“It was a good first at-bat, and all the nerves are gone now,” Bryant said.
How can he be so calm?
“It’s just a game,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and have fun and don’t put pressure on yourself and put a smile on your face and good things usually come from that.”
It worked at San Diego, where he led the nation with 31 home runs.
“I’ve just been blessed with power,” Bryant said. “I’m putting it to use. Hopefully, I can go out there tomorrow and give it all I’ve got and hopefully get a win.”
— Carrie Muskat