6/18/2014 8:00 P.M. ET
Cubs promote 'dominating' Bryant to Triple-A
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Kris Bryant moved one step closer to the big leagues on Wednesday.
The Cubs' second overall pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, Bryant was promoted from Double-A Tennessee and will join Triple-A Iowa on Thursday in Des Moines. Bryant, who won the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game on Monday, was leading the league in the Triple Crown categories with a .355 batting average, 22 home runs and 58 RBIs in 68 games with Tennessee.
During a radio interview in Chicago on Tuesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was asked about Bryant's progress.
"Is he dominating Double-A right now? Of course he is," Epstein said. "Does that mean his development is complete? No."
If you're looking for weaknesses, there aren't many. The third baseman has struck out 77 times in 248 at-bats, and has made 14 errors. But he's on the fast track.
"To come out after winning all of that last year and having a lot of hype and all the pressure of being the second overall pick, he's done a great job, and it's a promotion well deserved," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said of Bryant, who won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college player of the year in 2013.
Bryant didn't dazzle the Cubs in Spring Training -- he was 2-for-18, although both hits were home runs -- but he made up for that at Tennessee, and he definitely left a good first impression on Chicago manager Rick Renteria.
"He's a pretty mature young man," Renteria said. "He's very well spoken, doesn't seem to be phased by a whole lot. I think he's focused on his game. It does seem like he's a well-balanced individual. I think those things play well for him. Hopefully, he continues to have the success he's been having and moves forward."
Bryant, 22, also had 20 doubles, a .458 on-base percentage and .702 slugging percentage. He was named the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Month in May when he batted .407 with seven doubles, 12 homers, 34 RBIs and 17 walks. He had a pair of four-hit games, and a six RBI game as well.
The Cubs players get updates on Bryant and other top prospects, such as Javier Baez, on the daily Minor League reports.
"We're aware," pitcher Jake Arrieta said of the potential Cubs of the future. "We saw those guys in spring and we keep track of them. We're well aware of the things Bryant has been doing in Double-A. I'm sure he'll continue to swing the bat well. [Bryant and Baez] are two plus-plus bats with the ability to come up here and have an impact right away. Whenever the time is right, we look forward to seeing them."
What can Bryant expect?
"I think he's going to really dominate Triple-A more than Double-A," Rizzo said. "I thought Double-A was the hardest level for myself personally, and he's way more polished than I was in the Minor Leagues. He'll see more advanced pitching now. With the bases loaded, guys would rather walk him and give up one run than four. He'll put the finishing touches on his approach and hopefully takes off."
Rizzo and Starlin Castro both signed long-term deals with the Cubs and are considered the cornerstones. The future includes Bryant, Baez, Albert Almora, and this year's first-round pick, Kyle Schwarber, who was promoted from short-season Boise to Class A Kane County.
"There's a lot of work to do," Rizzo said. "You can't put all your eggs in one basket on two guys [Bryant and Baez]. It's just about whoever is here being a good team and getting along well."
Still, Bryant impressed his future teammates.
"That kind of guy, that kind of prospect is really good, and as soon as we need him here, we have to bring him," Castro said.
"He's coming here soon," Castro said.
Schwarber moving up after quick stint with Boise
MIAMI -- When Rick Renteria was the Pirates' first-round pick in 1980, Twitter didn't exist. His every at-bat wasn't posted on any social media outlets. It's a different world for Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs' No. 1 selection on June 5, who hit two home runs on Tuesday with short-season Boise and was promoted to Class A Kane County.
Schwarber was expected to be at Kane County on Thursday. He's not the only high-profile Cubs prospect getting a promotion. Kris Bryant, the team's No. 1 selection in 2013, was moved up from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa.
"I'm hopeful that those guys are concerned more with what they're doing on the field," Renteria said. "The landscape has changed. The moment-to-moment media coverage on every single thing that goes on, that wasn't existent for us. The biggest thing for me is they're handling what they're doing on the field. Part of their growth will be understanding all of this.
"All indications are that [Schwarber] is a pretty good kid, so it shouldn't be a very difficult transition."
A catcher at Indiana, Schwarber was 12-for-20 with four home runs, seven runs and 10 RBIs in five games at Boise.
Schwarber found out he was going to Kane County while riding on the team bus for a road trip to Eugene, Ore. Renteria recalled his own big promotion from Double-A to Triple-A in 1984. His father and brother had flown from California to the East Coast to watch Rick play, and he got word when they arrived that he was headed to Hawaii and the Pirates' Triple-A team.
Was there any pressure being a No. 1 pick?
"I never thought of it that way," Renteria said. "I was just playing baseball."
The media scrutiny definitely was much less.
"You got a phone call at home, and the local paper wanted to talk to you," Renteria said. "When I got to Bradenton, [Fla.], there was a local reporter there who wanted to talk, and asked how quickly was I going to get to the big leagues. I had no idea."
Whiteside enjoys catching Samardzija
MIAMI -- Eli Whiteside has caught some very good pitchers during his career with the Giants, and he said he's having a lot of fun working with the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija.
"He's unique in that he's one of the taller pitchers I've caught," Whiteside said Wednesday of the 6-foot-5 right-hander. "He's got good stuff and goes after the hitters. That's one of his strengths, is being aggressive in the strike zone. He's got good pitches to work with. He's a lot of fun to catch."
On Tuesday, Samardzija scattered seven hits over six innings against the Marlins and was in line for the win, but the bullpen couldn't hold the lead. What impressed Whiteside was how strong Samardzija was in the late innings of his outing.
"We talked about it during the game, and even before the game," Whiteside said. "He felt so good early in the game. The best innings he threw were his last two innings -- not that he got tired -- but he was able to get his stuff back in the strike zone. I felt the last two innings he threw were his best innings."
Whiteside caught Samardzija once in Spring Training, but he has been matched up with him since Welington Castillo was sidelined with a rib injury. And apparently Whiteside isn't following all the trade chatter about Samardzija, who could be dealt.
"One thing in this game is you can't worry about is outside stuff," Whiteside said. "You just take care of stuff on the field, and the other things will happen when they happen."
• Castillo, on the disabled list since June 2 with right rib cage inflammation, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Thursday. Castillo had been working out at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz.
• With the off-day Thursday, the Cubs will not change their rotation, and just give everyone an extra day. Edwin Jackson will open the three-game series Friday against the Pirates.
• In addition to Bryant joining Triple-A Iowa, the Cubs announced right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero also were promoted to the Minor League team. Vizcaino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, compiled a 2.63 ERA in 14 games at Double-A Tennessee. Rivero had a 1.56 ERA in 26 games with the Smokies and had 10 saves.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.