Kris Bryant itching for the chance to ‘totally redeem' himself


Kris Bryant declared his shoulder "perfectly fine" and no, he's not planning any tests for the chip on it. 

He feels so good about where he and the Cubs are at with the 2019 season around the corner, Bryant even dropped a "Dumb and Dumber" quote in while talking about how hungry he is for a chance at redemption.

"You certainly want to get started," Bryant said. "Just being eliminated earlier, too, there's more good than bad. The good is that we've had more time to recover and get stronger. But the bad is you want to get back out there and totally redeem yourself."

*cut to a clip of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels whiffing on a high five*

This is a new Bryant with a new perspective.

For the first time in his MLB career, Bryant did not make it to the National League Championship Series last fall, instead answering question after question at his locker about his shoulder and the Cubs coming up short in the wee hours of the morning on Oct. 3 while the Colorado Rockies sprayed the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field with champagne. 

"Just how we went down — playing so many games in a row," Bryant said at Cubs Convention earlier this month. "When you go through something like that, you kinda expect it to go your way. ... But sometimes you don't get what you want. It's kinda good for us to get our teeth kicked in on our field.

"I think ultimately we'll all learn from it and come out with a chip on our shoulder."

Bryant and his Cubs teammates understand the perception out there from some corners of the fan base that this team is incapable of going deeper in the 2019 playoffs with almost the exact same roster as last year and a quiet offseason from Theo Epstein's front office.

But Bryant is the looming as the ultimate X-factor for a lineup that "broke" down the stretch last year. He missed 60 games mostly due to a left shoulder injury that limited his power even when he was able to suit up for the Cubs. Considered one of the game's premier hitters, Bryant instead finished 2018 with half the homer output (13) he had in his rookie year of 2015 (26), which had represented his previous career low. 

Cubs fans understandably dream about the impact Bryce Harper would have on this offense, but what about a fully healthy Kris Bryant?

"I mean, the guy was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP," Albert Almora Jr. said. "That just goes to show what he can do when he's healthy. I think he grew a lot as a person and as a teammate. Obviously he's one of the best, but being hurt and having to be there for one of the boys, being limited on the field was tough for him but I think he handled it very well. We're super excited to have him for a full year."

Nobody can guarantee Bryant will stay healthy all season or that the shoulder injury won't pop back up.

But the early exit was actually a blessing in disguise for the two-time All-Star, as he was able to dedicate two months to letting the shoulder injury "settle down" and then building all that strength back up without having to worry about his swing or timing.

Bryant has been swinging for a while now, but that early-offseason work has "proven to be just what I needed."

"Not every year is gonna turn out the way you want it to and that's OK," Bryant said. "There are plenty of learning experiences in that. I learned what it's like to be on the DL and want to be out there and play and feel helpless not being able to do it.

"I hope there are no more times like that in my career, but the reality is there might be and now I know how to deal with it."

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