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Kris Bryant could be ready before Cubs are

Updated: March 16, 2014 9:21PM



LAS VEGAS — The poise, the polish and the performance might be right for slugging third baseman Kris Bryant at some point this year. But when the time is right for the Cubs’ No. 2-ranked prospect could be a different story.

The second overall pick in the draft last June heads back to minor-league camp after a weekend in his hometown, hanging out with family and friends between exhibition games against the New York Mets.

Whether he opens at advanced-Class A Daytona or Class AA Tennessee, many evaluators believe that if he picks up where he left off as the Arizona Fall League MVP four months ago, he could be ready to compete in the big leagues by the end of the season — maybe as soon as the Cubs create a raft of roster spots with another trading-deadline sell-off.

But don’t count on it — not when that would mean the Cubs starting his service-time clock and risking losing him to free agency at least a year sooner than they would otherwise.

‘‘I’ve got a little bit of understanding of it,’’ said Bryant, who has discussed various scenarios with his agent, Scott Boras. ‘‘But I kind of want to be a little naïve to it, just because if I start thinking about it, it’ll distract me.

‘‘I think talking to guys up here that have kind of been through that will definitely help me learn what kind of things to avoid. It’ll definitely help me down the road. . . . But right now I’m focused on just getting better every day.’’

After a month of talking about trying to win, first-year manager Rick Renteria seemed content to avoid the thought of losing late in the season without getting to use the team’s best players.

‘‘I don’t concern myself, quite frankly, with things I can’t control,’’ he said. ‘‘I think all the guys that I have out there right now that have been here the last couple years are my best players. The young men are developing into players, and they have tremendous skills, and they need to continue to gain their experience. And once we’ve all put our eyes on them and collectively feel that all the components that are necessary for someone to break in are there, then those decisions will be made, and not before. I can’t put a timetable on it or speculate on what I would do or not do.’’

Bryant was reassigned to minor-league camp Wednesday during the first round of cuts.

‘‘It definitely wasn’t a surprise to me,’’ said Bryant, the most popular Cub the last two days at Cashman Field, about 10 miles from where he went to high school. ‘‘I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to get invited to big-league camp.’’

How fast will he be ready to return? How fast until he’s allowed to?

‘‘I’m all about not focusing on those distractions,’’ he said. ‘‘If I was focused on certain dates of the whole business side of things, I think I’d lose a little bit of focus on the field, and that’s not what I want. I want to be the best that I can be on the field and let everybody else take care of the other stuff.’’

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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