CHICAGO -- Fans eager to see Kris Bryant at Wrigley Field will get their chance on Friday. As reported on Thursday, MLB's No. 2 prospect was promoted on Friday, and not just because his much discussed service-time hurdle has been cleared. The Cubs need a third baseman.
Mike Olt, who was hit on the right wrist by a pitch on Saturday in Denver, saw a hand specialist on Thursday and has a hairline fracture that will sideline him for a minimum of three weeks, according to a Major League source.
Bryant was in Friday's lineup, batting cleanup, for the day's game against the Padres at Wrigley Field.
Bryant hit his third home run in seven games with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader against New Orleans, a three-run shot. He was batting .321.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has maintained that the club wanted Bryant to open the season in the Minor Leagues so he could get into a good rhythm.
"His development is an important factor, and the needs of the big league team as well," Epstein said earlier this week.
Olt's situation affected the latter. The Cubs have been using Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara at third while Olt heals, and they even inserted left fielder Chris Coghlan there -- the first time he's played third since 2013. So far, Chicago's third basemen are batting .148 (4-for-27), worst in the National League, with one home run and one RBI, plus a .233 on-base percentage.
The countdown for Bryant's promotion began in the spring, when he batted .425 and led Spring Training with nine home runs -- and hit two more in exhibition games that didn't count. The hot topic has been service time. By delaying his promotion 12 days into the season, the Cubs gain an additional year of contractual control before Bryant can be a free agent. The 12-day countdown ended Friday.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was impressed with how Bryant handled third base this spring.
"I see him as a third baseman," Maddon said Wednesday. "That's where I saw him, and I thought he could do that. Conversationally with him, he likes playing the outfield, which I thought was interesting. If you could play him at two spots, and injuries occur, things have to be moved around, maybe somebody is available who does better here than there, that's a nice thing to have -- a player that young amenable to doing more than one thing. It doesn't happen all the time."
It seems as if Bryant will only have to focus on one spot with Olt's extended absence.
Maddon said he'd have a better feel for where Bryant would play after seeing him "in a Major League game in a Major League city with the lights and when it counts. That stuff is entirely different."