Kris Bryant scratched, still hits fifth and sixth spring homers

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Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant was scratched from Saturday’s Cactus League exhibition against the Athletics due to right shoulder fatigue. He pinch-hit for Anthony Rizzo in the DH spot in the third inning and took Jesse Hahn deep for a two-run home run. In his next at-bat, Bryant went yard against Evan Scribner for a solo home run. The Cubs went on to win 3-1, with Bryant accounting for all three runs.

Bryant, 23, leads the majors in spring home runs with six. Randal Grichuk and Alex Rios entered the afternoon tied in second place with three dingers. Bryant is currently 9-for-20 (.450) with nine RBI along with the six long balls.

The Cubs plan to have Bryant start the season in the minor leagues. Mike Olt will be the club’s regular third baseman, but Bryant should earn a promotion in late April or early May. In 594 plate appearances between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season, Bryant hit a robust .325/.438/.661 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.