By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — After an MVP campaign that helped lead his team to a World Series title, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant will need to be creative to improve on a magical 2016 season.
Of course, Bryant has been known to surpass excellence with more excellence in his young baseball career, that’s what he’s aiming to do again.
“It is nice to turn the page on last year,” Bryant said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday. “It will be hard because people still want to talk about what happened last year. Still, it’s great getting out and playing games again. We now can concentrate on this upcoming season.”
What are the challenges for Bryant and his teammates as they try and put 2016 in the rearview mirror while building toward another championship run?
“As a ballplayer, you are always looking for that edge,” Bryant said. “You look to try and find that angle to beat your opponent. There are a lot of areas where are I know I can get better. I feel great about that aspect of the game, and the work never stops. My offseason was short but full of good work. There were of course a lot of fun things as well. I am now looking forward to kind of getting back into the swing of things here. To me, taking ground balls and working on my hitting is all fun stuff.”
Bryant led the National League with 121 runs scored last season. That’s a stat that in the days of advanced metrics that Bryant still takes great pride in.
“That is a stat like like a lot,” Bryant said. “You have to score runs in order to win games. That is a simple yet an important stat. On our team, if I get on base, I know I have a pretty good chance of scoring. With (Anthony) Rizzo behind me and a lot of good hitters after that, I take a lot of pride in that.”
With Kyle Schwarber set to lead off, the Cubs have the potential of having their first three hitters reach the 25-homer plateau for the first time ever in the same season. Bryant is set to hit second, while Rizzo will hit third.
“It won’t be a fun time for them watching Kyle lead the game off,” Bryant said. “He may not be a prototypical lead-off man, but the pitcher will not be that comfortable with him leading off.”
Bryant has his own self-imposed challenge for 2017.
“I didn’t need any metrics to know what I want to improve on — those pitches that are middle away,” Bryant said. “I want to do a better job about hitting them the other way. I do a pretty good job of handling the inside corner. When the pitch is away, I want to do more damage going to right field. I did that well in the minors. I have all the confidence in the world I can get back to that.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.