PITTSBURGH -- Kris Bryant told Cubs manager Joe Maddon he'd be willing to play anywhere in the big leagues. Any player would say that. But the rookie didn't expect to be in the outfield in his sixth Major League game.
All the focus on the Cubs' top prospect has been on his hitting, but it shifted on Wednesday when Bryant moved from third base to center field in the eighth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Pirates. Naturally, he had to make the first play of the inning as Todd Walker flied out to center.
"We were joking around about that after the inning," Bryant said. "I figured I'd get at least something out there."
It worked out so well, Bryant got the start Thursday in center field for the Cubs' afternoon game in Pittsburgh.
The Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers and are short-handed on the bench, and Dexter Fowler had to exit after two innings because of tightness in his right groin. After some maneuvers in the Cubs' eighth, bench coach Dave Martinez asked Bryant where he would be more comfortable, left or center.
Bryant did play five games in the outfield in college and two games in Spring Training with the Cubs. At 6-foot-5, Bryant is quite a presence in center. According to Yahoo Sports, the only taller players in history to play center were Dave Winfield, Corey Hart, John Mayberry Jr. and Dick Hall.
Could Bryant play outfield in the big leagues?
"Why not?" Bryant said. "I actually like center a lot better than the other two because you don't have to deal with the hooks of a righty smashing one down the left-field line, or a lefty smashing one down the right-field line. It was cool out there. Center field is fun."
Bryant almost got to celebrate his first big league home run in the first when he fouled a ball down the left-field line. Bryant broke into his home run trot and slapped hands with first-base coach Brandon Hyde. Then he realized it was foul.
"I thought it was [out]," Bryant said. "I didn't watch it at all, but I thought it might have hooked around the pole."
Bryant is 9-for-22 in his brief big league career, with a .591 slugging percentage and .552 on-base percentage. Not bad for a rookie.
There was a little confusion in the fifth. The Cubs had the bases loaded and none out against Pirates starter Vance Worley, who fell behind, 3-0, to Bryant. Manager Joe Maddon said he gave Bryant the green light.
"Who would you rather have swinging right there?" Maddon said. "If that ball goes in the seats right there, we're really happy. You don't do that with everybody."
But Bryant said there was some miscommunication, and he actually missed the sign. He swung through, and eventually flied out to end the inning.
"[Worley] did throw seven balls in a row, so it really wasn't a good thing to swing there," Bryant said.
Bryant also was at the plate in the ninth with two outs and one on, but Tony Watson struck him out to preserve the win.
"Sometimes you have to tip your cap," Bryant said.