Kris Bryant is pain-free and has no doubt he'll return to Cubs in 2018

Tony Andracki
NBC Sports Chicago

Breathe easy, Cubs fans. Grab another cold drink, put your feet up and soak in the sun - there's good news on the Kris Bryant front.

Before a picture-perfect afternoon game against the Nationals at Wrigley Field Saturday, Bryant took some swings and ground balls and reported zero pain in his left shoulder.

"I should be [feeling better] - I've had some time off and really not doing too much," he said. "Just keeping my legs in shape, but yeah, I feel a lot better."

Bryant is only taking dry swings (with no baseball) and hitting a little off a batting tee, but it's a start.

"Nothing super crazy, but it's nice to be able to pick up a bat," he said. "Obviously still kinda going a little slow, but seems to be the smart thing to do."

The Cubs are making sure they won't rush Bryant back this time and will allow the left shoulder to be 100 percent before inserting the 2016 NL MVP back into the lineup.

The postseason is only about seven weeks away, but Bryant has no doubt he'll make it back in time to contribute this year.

"Yeah, absolutely. I feel confident [I'll be back]," he said. "It would be pretty silly if I wasn't, just in my mind. I'm totally confident that I'll be back."

Bryant injured the shoulder in late May on a slide and believes he aggravated it by taking too many swings to try to bust out of a slump. That led to a few weeks on the shelf, missing games from June 23 to July 10.

He came back for 10 games before again hurting his shoulder on a swing against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 23. He hasn't played since then and this weekend is the first time he's picked up a bat in almost three weeks.

There is no set plan for Bryant or timetable for when he will return and while he's anxious to get back, he acknowledges things are moving in the right direction.

And no pain in the shoulder is as good a sign as any at the moment.

"Obviously means what we're doing is working and the right thing," Bryant said. "Hopefully it makes me a better player, knowing that there's things that I need to do to maintain my body and hopefully it's making me stronger for it.

"As much as it stinks to be on the DL, I see it as a win for me."

Bryant is only 26, but he has realized that he needs to back off with his pregame and off-day routine, finding a way to limit the high-intensity swings until the game. 

He felt like he was taking too many "game-like swings" in the batting cage and during BP on the field, so moving forward in his career, he'll lighten that load.

Anthony Rizzo has come to the same conclusion over the last couple years as he's dealt with an episode of back issues at some point during the course of each season.

It's a lesson learned the hard way for Bryant.

"It was good for me to realize that," he said. "You can't keep going every day and just swinging and swinging and swinging because things might bark at you sometimes. And that's kinda what happened.

"It's good for me to see early on in my career that it's nice to change some things here and there so that you can play [longer]. I want to play until I'm 40."

Bryant hasn't made any major changes or adjustments to his swing, but through this process, he has understood the value of getting back to having a smooth follow-through to avoid the wear and tear on his shoulder.

After all, Bryce Harper calls Bryant "Silk" because of how smooth and fluid the Cubs superstar is on the field.

"Just be conscious of my workload and the violence of a finish rather than me being smooth and easy with it, especially in practice," Bryant said. "So that's kinda what our focus is."

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