DENVER — Rockies left fielder Kris Bryant was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday with a back strain, thus ending his hope to return to the lineup Friday night against the Reds at Coors Field. Prospect Elehuris Montero, a power-hitting corner infielder and designated hitter ranked as the Rockies’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque.
The IL placement is retroactive to Tuesday, which means Bryant is eligible to return next Friday at Arizona.
“It was just the soreness — we felt it wasn’t getting better to the point where we felt he was going to be able to play in the next couple of days,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “That should give him, we hope, ample time to get healthy and feel good about where he is physically with his back.”
Bryant believes that when he does return, he has a plan for better health and flexibility, and a better hitting approach after a lengthy slump.
Bryant was hitless in his previous 16 at-bats before delivering a single late in Monday’s 8-2 loss to the Phillies. He was then scratched Tuesday and held out of the lineup Wednesday and Thursday. The injury, Bryant said after the Rockies’ loss on Thursday in Philadelphia, did not happen suddenly.
The most expensive free-agent signing in Rockies history (seven years, $182 million), Bryant had hits in 10 of his first 11 games and was batting .349 entering Colorado’s seven-game road trip. But his slump has pulled his average down to .281. Also, he was brought in as a home run threat but he has not gone deep this season.
Bryant’s swing is not connecting with the pitches he’s getting over the heart of the plate. His “meatball” rate — a measurement Bryant said he had never heard of “until the other day” — is 7.8 percent, actually slightly higher than last year’s 7 percent.
While during the slump he has been getting himself out on pitchers’ pitches, his chase rate (swings outside the zone) is down slightly overall this year. The difference has been the quality of Bryant’s contact. His hard-hit rate has dropped from 40 percent last season (and 37.4 percent for his career) to 25.5 percent.
With improved health and timing, and with his body getting used to the altitude and into the swing of the season, Bryant is looking for the big swing that will unlock his power.
“Everybody wants to see numbers go up super-fast,” he said. “It’s important to be patient, not get too emotional about it one way or the other. You could be hitting a bunch, then have three games where you’re not hitting a bunch, and that is a downward spiral and you don’t want to get in that position, either.
“Stay with the process, knowing things will happen when they happen.”