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Bryant starts new year with a bang

Cubs prospect homers in Double-A debut as Smokies fall to Wahoos
April 4, 2014

Kris Bryant started the 2014 season where he left off last fall, by showing off his power, but it wasn't enough to lift his team to victory in his Double-A debut.

MLB.com's No. 9 overall prospect plated two runs, scored twice and stole a base for only the second time in his career as Tennessee fell to Pensacola, 6-5, on Opening Day. The third baseman also worked a walk and got hit by a pitch by Mat Latos.

"I was seeing the ball really well. I think the nerves were going a little bit, but that made me focus a little more. I wasn't sure if it was gone," Bryant said of his homer. "I knew I hit the ball well and so I just put my head down and ran."

He also understands the necessity for stealing a base now and then.

"I pick my spots here and there," he said. "I try to be an all-around player and I realize running is another part of the game."

After being the second overall pick last June, Bryant saw time in the Arizona, Northwest and Florida State Leagues, amassing a .336 average with nine homers and 32 RBIs. The 22-year-old then made himself comfortable in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, leading the league in home runs (six), slugging (.727), and OPS (1.184), and was crowned the circuit's MVP.

The Cubs' No. 2 prospect got his feet wet in big league camp this spring, hitting two homers while plating four runs over 11 games.

"I learned a bunch while at Spring Training, just seeing how the guys in the big leagues go about their business and their routines on game day," Bryant said.

Zeke DeVoss collected a triple and a single for the Smokies, while Jorge Soler, Rubi Silva and Rafael Lopez contributed a double apiece.

Latos allowed five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits over four innings. No. 6 Reds prospect Carlos Contreras picked up the win after allowing two hits while striking out six over three scoreless frames. The right-hander ended last season in the Southern League, going 3-2 with 28 strikeouts and a .276 ERA in eight starts.

Brodie Greene smacked a go-ahead two-RBI single in the eighth inning, while Bryson Smith and Juan Silverio each collected two hits in the Blue Wahoos' victory.

"It's the greatest day of the year, just getting out there and playing competitive baseball again," Bryant said.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.