Comfortable at third, Bryant makes first start in center

Comfortable at third, Bryant makes first start in center

PITTSBURGH -- Kris Bryant is well aware of the super talented center fielders who have played the game such as Willie Mays and Andrew McCutchen.

"Don't even put me in the same sentence with those guys -- I'm not there," Bryant said, laughing. "Third base is the position I want to get better at. When guys go down, other guys step up, and I'm here to fill that hole when needed and Dexter [Fowler] will be back soon."

Bryant, who is the Cubs' top prospect, started in center field on Thursday in the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Pirates, subbing for Fowler, who had to leave Wednesday's game because of tightness in his right groin. Fowler was available to pinch-hit on Thursday.

With the game tied at 4 and one out in the seventh, Josh Harrison doubled to left-center on a ball that Bryant had to chase in center.

"It took a left turn on him," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It was like a two-iron. It hooked left and he had no chance with that."

At 6-foot-5, Bryant is one of the tallest center fielders to play the position. The Pirates' Corey Hart, another tall outfielder at 6-foot-6, knows what it feels like.

"When I played early on and then went to the outfield, I actually thought center field was the easiest position," Hart said. "You don't have to worry about the side walls and you're kind of in control. For him, it's probably the easiest position [in the outfield]. He's got some speed out there, and I think that you don't have to worry about a lot of the slices and hooks that you have to worry about at the other spots."

Bryant agreed, and he told Maddon that he'd prefer center over either corner.

"That's the position he's most comfortable with in the outfield," Maddon said.

So far, nothing seems to faze Bryant. He went 0-for-4 in his debut with three strikeouts, but he bounced back. He nearly got in Wednesday's game at first base after Maddon was busy making double switches. The last time that Bryant played first? College.

"That would've been cool to play three positions in one game," Bryant said.

Maddon isn't surprised.

"You talk to a lot of young guys, just you and him, and they don't necessarily get absorbed in the conversation," Maddon said of Bryant. "He's comfortable in the conversation and I like that, and I encouraged him to tell me what he thinks."

Could he catch?

"I caught in Little League," Bryant said. "Catching's no fun, especially with some of these guys pitching."

Could he pitch?

"Probably not that good, though," Bryant said. "I'd get hit."

Friday will mark Bryant's one-week anniversary in the big leagues. So far, the food is better, the hotels are nicer and he doesn't miss the TSA checks at airports.

"It's been fun," he said. "Now it's settling into a routine, and I really want to be another guy in the locker room and try to help the team win. I don't want to be bigger than anybody else here. It's been fun, a dream come true."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.