After missing yesterday’s game with shoulder “fatigue” – not pain! not soreness! the Cubs emphasize these things so here I am emphasizing them! – Kris Bryant is expected to play tonight against the Pirates.
Well, that’s according to Bryant (NBCS Chicago), but Joe Maddon indicated he might try to give Bryant another night off. Consecutive days of rest has long been a part of the Joe Maddon program, and tonight the Cubs are facing a guy in Jameson Taillon who is especially tough on righties anyway. Moreover, it was always the case that, upon returning from a second lengthy shoulder-related absence, Bryant was not going to play every single day. The last thing you want is Bryant playing fatigued, and then taking a swing that tweaks his shoulder.
Bryant, himself, underscored that there’s no renewed injury concerns (NBCSC): “I wouldn’t say I’m feeling something — I was just tired from playing …. I haven’t had any pain or any of that, which is great. I just gotta stay on top of my shoulder program and stuff like that, which we’re doing, so that’s good.”
So, then, even if Bryant sits again tonight, you might not necessarily have any additional reason to freak out.
But … how much baseline reason should you have to freak out? I mean, clearly the Cubs – and Maddon – know where folks heads will go when Kris Bryant misses time, again, with a shoulder thing. So they emphasize that it’s just fatigue, it’s no big deal, there’s no pain, etc. Still, I can’t blame any fans who feel burned by not only the way Bryant’s injury situation has played out, but also by the way several serious injury issues have gone for the team this year. I am not of the mind that there is some conspiracy going on to lie about injuries, but I do think, in recent years, the Cubs have frequently been far too publicly optimistic in their hopes/expectations, and it’s left fans feeling like we’re always caught with our pants down.
That is all to say, I will feel OK again when Bryant is in the lineup. And if he misses tonight, I’ll understand at a thinking level that it doesn’t mean he’s going to miss more time at the end of the season, but I will also feel the underlying pangs of panic. People teach you how they treat you or something like that.
Hopefully, whether tonight or tomorrow, Bryant goes like normal, rips a couple shots, and we can all start sharing in the optimism going forward. For as much as this year feels like a lost season for Bryant, he actually has played pretty well this month – and, on the whole, when he’s been healthy. The Cubs still need him in the lineup when the postseason bell rings.