Bryant remains out for dinged-up Cubs

Defending NL MVP ill, Zobrist, Jay, Russell nursing injuries, but no DL stint expected

Bryant remains out for dinged-up Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- Even though the Cubs added prospect Ian Happ, they were playing short-handed on Saturday. Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Kris Bryant was not available because of an illness that sidelined him shortly before Friday's game.

Ben Zobrist and Jon Jay both have back issues, while Addison Russell was nursing a sore right shoulder. Russell did pinch-hit on Friday, and manager Joe Maddon said the shortstop and Zobrist were closest to returning. Zobrist missed a few games earlier because of back problems.

"I would say it never totally went away," Zobrist said Saturday. "It just got exacerbated playing the doubleheader [on Tuesday in Denver] and the travel and stuff. I did absolutely nothing on the off-day [Thursday] and tried to let it rest. Friday morning, it was stiff and did not feel good."

Zobrist's RBI triple

Zobrist did play Friday, but said the addition of Happ, who was promoted from Triple-A Iowa, will "help a lot of us who are banged up."

Bryant was scratched on Friday just moments before Maddon took the lineup card out for the game. Jay subbed for Bryant, but only lasted one inning and had to leave because of back spasms.

Maddon said none of the injuries were believed to be serious enough that the players had to go on the disabled list.

Losing Bryant hurts the most. He was starting in right field for Jason Heyward, who is on the DL with a right finger sprain.

"Here's your third baseman, right fielder, backup first baseman -- you can put him anywhere in the outfield," Maddon said of Bryant. "The 'Swiss Bryant knife' was unavailable yesterday. He's that good. To win an MVP Award by doing all of those things -- when was the last time that was done? How many guys have won that award playing that many positions and doing it well?"

Happ is versatile as well, playing second and the outfield. He started in right field on Saturday.

• With Happ starting, the Cubs had four of their last five No. 1 Draft picks in the lineup Saturday. Javier Baez was selected in 2011, Albert Almora Jr. in '12, Bryant in '13, Kyle Schwarber in '14 and Happ in '15.

The addition of Happ also shows the Cubs' depth in the system. Earlier this week, the Cubs called up Jeimer Candelario from Triple-A, and he was batting fourth and starting at third.

"You have to have other good pieces available," Maddon said. "These guys are. They're also extremely young. It's an interesting team on the field, reminiscent of a couple years ago. I think it's exciting, it's exciting if you're a Cub fan and for our future. I feel good about it. I don't think we're going out there without any shortcomings. These guys can play."

Maddon also wants fans to know the young players may make some mistakes.

"These guys are good, they're going to keep getting better and it speaks well for the future," he said.

• Maddon rarely takes the lineup card out, but did so Friday because Bryant was a late scratch and he wanted to make sure the umpires could understand his "scribbles." The Cubs won Friday. On Saturday, Maddon did the lineup card honors again. He's not superstitious, but is a little "stitious."

"[Coach Franklin Font] was upset with me," Maddon said. "It was Font's turn to take it out [on Friday]. I just had to do it. I am just a little 'stitous.'"

No. 1 prospect Eloy Jimenez, who has been sidelined since Spring Training because of a bruised right shoulder, was assigned to Class A Myrtle Beach on Friday. Jimenez has been rehabbing at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., and playing in extended spring games there.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.