Lack of homers doesn't concern Bryant, Cubs

Lack of homers doesn't concern Bryant, Cubs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At this time last spring, Kris Bryant had hit nine home runs, tops in both Arizona and Florida. The Cubs third baseman had one heading into Thursday's game against the Giants.

Maybe teams are already approaching Bryant differently after his National League Rookie of the Year season?

"They're definitely not pitching me any differently," Bryant said Thursday. "I think last year, it was a little easier to get into a rhythm because I was playing more often. I think that's how they do it when you're a Minor Leaguer in the big league camp. You play more at the beginning.

"If you're a Major Leaguer, you play more toward the end," Bryant said. "Thinking back on it, I felt a lot more comfortable because I was playing mostly every game [last year]."

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This year, Bryant is a big leaguer, and there are no questions regarding whether he should be in the Cubs' Opening Day lineup following his stellar rookie season in which he belted 26 homers, hit 31 doubles, drove in 99 runs and batted .275.

"So far this spring, I just missed a couple [homers] -- hit one off the fence, flew out to the track numerous times," Bryant said. "That's good for me and the ball flight for me is better. It's not a really high fly ball, it's a better swing path through the ball."

Bryant and Maddon on mindset

Manager Joe Maddon wasn't even aware the numbers are down. He likes what he's seeing from Bryant.

"I think he has a better swing right now, quite frankly," Maddon said. "That's the thing with Spring Training. Last year, guys were feeding him a lot of fastballs, and he wasn't missing the fastball. It's so different between this month and the next month."

Maddon knows Bryant will come through when it counts.

"He's going to hit his home runs," Maddon said. "Technically, he's got a better swing. The work they've done, it's better than it was last year at the same time. There's no comparison on what he's able to do and the variety of different pitches he can handle with this kind of adjustment."

Bryant delivered an opposite-field two-strike hit in a recent game, which Maddon said was exactly what he wants to see.

"If we could all do that a little more consistently, we'll score the requisite number of runs it will take to win it," Maddon said.

It is only Spring Training, and teams have yet to have those meetings when they discuss how to pitch to certain batters. Bryant isn't a big fan of all the in-depth sabermetrics.

"I think we, as a baseball community, put too much thought into all these scouting reports," Bryant said. "Each individual situation, the pitcher isn't thinking like that, and I'm not thinking like that, either. Every situation is different. [The pitcher] is not going to throw the ball exactly where he wants to all the time. You can say he's pitching differently, or maybe he's just missing his spot, and it feels like he's pitching me differently. Each at-bat is a different entity to itself and that's how I look at it."

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