Kris Bryant continues to make slow and steady progress in his rehab of a shoulder injury that sapped him of power long before he actually went to the disabled list (the first time). The Cubs no doubt hope that, when Bryant returns this time around, he will be back to his usual, powerful self, and won’t risk re-injury.
To that end, Bryant is now up to taking swings in the cage (Cubs.com), and he says it feels good to be swinging again: “I’ve been doing it the last couple days, and it feels good. It’s nice to actually feel like a baseball player.” The next step will be live pitching, but there hasn’t yet been an update on when that might be.
And when he comes back, Bryant does intend to be that same guy he’s always been:
What type of player will the #Cubs be getting once Kris Bryant is cleared?
"I expect the same impact I’ve always had. I'm just going to go out there and be myself. And I know that's pretty good."https://t.co/k1h1Gqa7N1
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) August 17, 2018
Whenever he’s able to play in a game again – which wouldn’t come until after he’s faced live pitching – it’ll probably be for a two to four-game rehab stint in the minors, allowing him to get his timing back and also test out the shoulder in a real game situation. The expectation very much remains that Bryant will be back at some point this year, and in advance of the Cubs’ postseason run.
As for what happens after the season, Theo Epstein was on The Score yesterday and didn’t rule out the possibility of offseason surgery:
Could Kris Bryant have minor clean-up surgery on his shoulder in offseason?
Theo Epstein: That has yet to be determined, but there's a "good chance that he does not need it."
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 16, 2018
Theo Epstein on Kris Bryant's Shoulder:
"He's got some wear and tear in there that players have and he definitely felt it when he made that slide in Cincinnati but you'd have to look to Little League if you're trying to find a baseball player with a completely clean shoulder"
— McNeil & Parkins (@McNeil_Parkins) August 16, 2018
You certainly hope surgery is not required for Bryant, because even offseason surgery – even “minor” “clean-up” surgery – in the shoulder could put part of next season at risk, and could also have ramifications for Bryant’s career. If surgery isn’t necessary, it’s best to avoid it. I suppose we’ll see when we see.
For now, it sounds like things remain on course for Bryant to return to the Cubs in September, and then he’ll be managed carefully as October approaches.
(Also, now we know for sure when the shoulder injury happened: looks like it was the doubleheader in Cincinnati on May 19. Bryant didn’t play the final game of that series (which wouldn’t have struck us as odd at the time, given that it was right after a doubleheader with an off-day that followed, so Bryant got a couple days off), and his game was totally changed after that.)