While Jorge Soler has a blast with Cubs, Kris Bryant waits his turn
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 29, 2014 11:24PM
CUBS AT CARDINALS
The facts: Game 1 — 1:15 p.m., CSN, 720-AM; Game 2 — 7:15, CSN, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Game 1 — Felix Doubront (2-4, 6.07 ERA with Red Sox) vs. Justin Masterson (2-2, 7.43); Game 2 — Tsuyoshi Wada (4-1, 2.56) vs. Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07).
Updated: August 30, 2014 2:13AM
ST. LOUIS — Three Cubs who were in the minors eight weeks ago — and in A-ball less than two years ago — did their best Friday night to show the St. Louis Cardinals at least part of what’s coming to the Cubs-Cards rivalry.
Jorge Soler: 3-for-3 and two home runs. Javy Baez: a go-ahead double in the eighth inning. Arismendy Alcantara: a homer in the ninth to finish off a 7-2 victory.
“We’re just waiting for Bryant now,” Baez said.
That’s probably going to be a long wait, certainly longer than players in the clubhouse prefer to see presumptive Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant join the show.
General manager Jed Hoyer said again Friday that the front office hasn’t budged on its plan to keep Bryant (pro-ball-leading 42 homers) from a big-league promotion this year, even after the Class AAA season ends in a few days.
But that hasn’t stopped Baez — and Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro before him — from wishing out loud for a look at him this year.
“For sure,” said Baez. “Who knows? In baseball, nobody knows anything. It’s not up to us.”
If nothing else, Baez and Soler are setting a high bar for Bryant once he arrives. Both homered in their debuts. And with his two first-pitch homers Friday, Soler joined Baez among only three players since 1900 to have three homers in their first three career games (Joe Cunningham, 1954 Cardinals).
“Yeah, we’re imagining what [Bryant] can do,” rookie starter Kyle Hendricks said. “I mean, the whole group together. It’s definitely exciting. You can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it around the clubhouse. It’s just awesome seeing these guys coming up and having success.”
Soler is 7-for-11 with the homers, a double, a walk and six RBI.
“I feel real good and have confidence in myself, and I’m seeing the ball well,” he said with the help of coach Franklin Font translating. “What can I say?”
When asked about Bryant, Soler laughed a little and shook his head. “He’s real good. I don’t know how soon, but I hope we can see him in the next month here.”
Forget it, said Hoyer, who answered the questions just a couple hours after a short-lived Twitter rumor claimed Bryant had been called up Friday.
“He’s not on the roster, so right away that would knock another player off the roster,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to be really tight on the roster [heading to the offseason], and we know that. And this is his first full season, and he’s going to get 140-plus games. He’s played exceptionally well, but nothing’s changed on that front.”
Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft last year, doesn’t require a 40-man spot to be protected from the Rule 5 draft in December.
Hoyer denied Bryant’s conspicuous absence has anything to do with service-time issues or concerns about agent Scott Boras’ tendency to take his most valuable players to free agency as soon as they’re eligible.
“We’ve got a really good relationship with Kris, and obviously Scott, as well,” Hoyer said, pointing out the two prospects acquired in the Jeff Samardzija deal — Addison Russell and Billy McKinley — are Boras clients.
“We’ve got a good relationship with them. We talk to them all the time. That’s not the reason or a concern. We’ve never wavered [on his plan]. It’s a feeling that it’s the right thing for him, his first full season and not [being] on the roster. We’ll enjoy the guys we have up here right now.”