As far as we know, Kris Bryant is still not swinging the bat. His rehab from persistent shoulder soreness is going well enough that he’s seeing progress – which doesn’t really tell us a lot about his timeline, but it’s all we’ve got – but it’s not clear when he’s going to be able to swing again, let alone swing full out at live pitching.
To that end, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told The Score that the Cubs are not looking for Bryant to return before he’s totally and completely pain free at this point. You may recall that Bryant played through his discomfort for a long time before going on the disabled list, and then when he returned, it was with a modified swing designed to reduce the discomfort. That approach clearly didn’t work, since Bryant went right back on the disabled list almost immediately.
So, now it’s pretty much 100% healthy or bust.
“Getting Kris Bryant back at some percentage less than 100 percent, I’m not sure that’s what we need,” Hoyer said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show. “We need him back and being the superstar player that he is. I think we’ve seen that as he’s dealt with this injury that it has taken a toll on him. We want to get him healthy. We’re really thankful that David Bote has been able to step in and play really well and other guys as well to allow us to get through this stretch without Kris. But I think we’re lying if we say we don’t miss him. Hopefully, he can get this thing right and get back and be really close to 100 percent for that final kick in the season.”
To be sure, sometimes you do see players returning at less than 100% because (1) that version of themselves is still better than what you have, and (2) there is no risk of additional/worsening injury. In this situation, though, that isn’t going to work.
It seems like part of the rationale for wanting Bryant to be totally pain free before he returns is because the Cubs don’t want any worry about discomfort in the back of Bryant’s mind while he’s playing. If you’ve dealt with a lingering injury, you can understand that – not feeling 100% just doesn’t allow you to be yourself. So it’s not hard to imagine it being there in Bryant’s mind when he swings, which is absolutely not something you need – even at a teeny, tiny, background level – when he’s facing the most difficult task in sports.
“The focus is on getting him to a place where he doesn’t feel it at all when he swings,” Hoyer said. “And that way he can play free and easy and be able to be himself.”
So, then, it remains the case that we should not be expecting to see Bryant back in the Cubs’ lineup any time soon, and – this is me just guessing conservatively – probably not until some time in September.