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Kris Bryant returns to third base as Cubs debut new jerseys

2 years agoAndy Martinez

Fifty-three days later, Kris Bryant is back.

To third base, that is.

The former MVP made his return to the hot corner for Saturday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals after 43 games roaming the outfield or playing first base.

“We just try to determine the best lineup to face this pitcher that day,” David Ross said prior to the game.

That meant having the Cubs’ Opening Day outfield — Joc Pederson, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward — all start together for the first time since May 19. Due to a myriad of injuries to the trio and to others on the Cubs’ roster, Bryant was forced to fill in as utility-man extraordinaire and doing so at an MVP-level, posting a .942 OPS with 13 home runs and 38 RBI this season entering Saturday’s game.

Facing John Gant, a righty, Ross wanted to get the lefty bats of Pederson and Heyward in the lineup, along with the switch-hitting Happ. That move paid off, with Happ homering in the 2nd inning and Pederson in the 4th. The Cubs brought 11 hitters to the plate in the inning, scoring 5 runs on just 2 hits and drawing 5 walks and a hit by pitch.

The return to third was short-lived, however, as Bryant moved to left field on a double switch in the 7th inning.

Pederson’s Wrigley experience

During the 1st inning of Saturday’s game, a portion of fans in the left field bleachers started chanting “Joc Pederson” until Pederson acknowledged them.

“They’re pretty rowdy out there,” Pederson said. “It’s fun. It’s a good group out there.”

In this series against the Cardinals, Pederson has gotten the full Wrigley Field experience with a capacity crowd. He’s lived it before as a Dodger, but this series was the first time doing so as part of the home team.

“It’s pretty special,” Pederson said. “It’s been a long time waiting to play in front of Wrigley’s full capacity. It was one to remember, for sure.”

Friday afternoon, he also witnessed one of the cooler live moments he’s been a part of.

“I think that Rizzo at-bat was one of the better at-bats I’ve seen live in person,” Pederson said. “That was a really cool moment.”

Pederson gave the Wrigley faithful something to cheer for on Saturday. After his 4th inning home run, he rounded the bases and did his stutter step as he approached third base, which he copied from the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. It was Pederson’s third consecutive game with a home run. 

Injury updates

Matt Duffy, Nico Hoerner and David Bote all got work in at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon as they make their return from injury.

Duffy was fielding balls at third base, Hoerner was running sprints in the stands and Bote was doing some light running in the outfield. Ross said that Bote took some “light swings in the cage the other day two-handed.”

“I would say Duffy’s probably leading the group,” Ross said. “They’re all in their programs to come back. The timeline stuff is still TBD. Everybody’s doing well.”

Justin Steele threw a bullpen session Sunday in San Francisco but hasn’t thrown since as he works his way back from a hamstring injury. Steele is scheduled to throw a bullpen in the next few days.

“Everything seems to be on the up and up and moving in the right direction,” Ross said.

Jerseys debut in style

Wrigley Field was a sea of blue Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs debuted their new, blue City Connect Series jerseys with “Wrigleyville” emblazoned across the front. The Cardinals, meanwhile, wore their baby blue alternate road jerseys.

The City Connect Series made their debut with the jerseys having a special emphasis on neighborhood. The team had people from all 77 neighborhoods in the outfield prior to the game. Many of the players wore specialty cleats and gear to match the uniform.

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