Kris Bryant’s defensive improvements pay off with a triple play
Kris Bryant knew there was some room for improvement in his mechanics at third base.
At 6-foot, 5-inches, Bryant is a bit taller than a typical third baseman. That meant when he was getting set defensively prior to the pitch, he was low to the ground slowing him from being able to get strong jumps out of his stance to the ball.
So, during spring training, he worked with bench coach Andy Green to make sure his first moves reacting to a play were as crisp as they could be.
The early results seem to be paying off.
“I’m trying to stay a little taller at third base in my pre-pitch routine and, you know, I feel a lot more, you know, quicker over there,” Bryant said Wednesday night. “I’ve been feeling really good defensively over there at third, so that’s been positive for me and hopefully I can keep building on that.”
It showed during Wednesday night’s loss to the Reds. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Reds’ Shogo Akiyama hit a sharp liner to third, where Bryant dove to his right, seemingly catching the ball before it hit the ground, running to step on the third base bag and whipping a liner to Ian Happ at first to induce a force out at first and complete the triple play. It was the Cubs’ first since May 10, 1997 in San Francisco.
Except, on the replay, the ball hit the infield dirt before nestling into Bryant’s bright, light blue glove.
“Yeah, I was convinced [I caught it],” Bryant said. “I’m not trying to sell anybody on a call. If I dropped it, I dropped it.”
The play was unable to be reviewed because catch/no catch calls in the infield can’t be reviewed.
Regardless, the quick reactions and play reaffirmed the work he put in to improve as a defender.
“I really like to evaluate things at the end of the year and how I felt throughout the whole year, but right now it feels like it’s working,” Bryant said.
Still, the play will be counted as a triple play. It’s the first time Bryant and David Ross have been on a team that turned a double play.
Ross hit into a triple play – ironically enough also in Cincinnati — when he was a member of the Reds in 2007. With Josh Hamilton on second and Edwin Encarnación at first, Ross grounded to third baseman Abraham Núñez who stepped on third, tossed to second baseman Chase Utley who flipped it to Wes Helms at first to beat Ross by a step.
It was the perfect pitch result for Duane Underwood Jr., who had entered the game to face Akiyama.
“I’ve never been on a team that actually turned a triple play so that was really cool,” Ross said. “And Duane, I was telling him, that’s the kinda thing we want when I bring you in, bases loaded, nobody out, a triple play, that’s a nice little pick me up when he walked off.”
Bryant will add that to his long list of achievements.
“I guess I can put that on my list of things I’ve accomplished,” Bryant said. “I don’t think I’ve ever turned a triple play in my life, so that was pretty cool.”