Kris Bryant returns as a pinch hitter in the Chicago Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals as manager David Ross opts for a cautious approach

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Kris Bryant was not in the Chicago Cubs lineup for the second straight game Thursday.

Bryant came out of Tuesday’s game with right hamstring fatigue, which later was described by manager David Ross as heavy legs.

Ross sounded optimistic during Wednesday’s pregame availability that Bryant would be available, but when a key pinch-hitting spot came up in the 10th inning of the loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Bryant wasn’t used. Following further conversations after he spoke to reporters, Ross knew going into Wednesday’s game that he wouldn’t have Bryant at his disposable for any pinch-hitting opportunities.

That wasn’t the case for the Cubs’ series final. Ross said pregame Thursday that Bryant was feeling better and “should be” back in the lineup Friday at Wrigley Field.

“I’m never going to put somebody in harm’s way,” Ross said before the game. “I think protecting your guys, whether it’s talking to you guys or not using them in a game or putting them in a situation where they can hurt themselves — I’ve learned valuable lessons in this seat. Having someone sit out a day or two is much better than 10 to 15 to 20 to a month, right? It’s just not worth it.”

Bryant pinch hit for Ian Happ and drew a walk in the eighth inning of a 3-2 loss at Busch Stadium. However, Jason Heyward came on to replace Bryant as a pinch runner.

The Cardinals jumped to a 3-0 lead in the third when Nolan Arenado hit a two-run home run off Adbert Alzolay. Dylan Carlson hit a solo shot in the first.

The Cubs got two runs back in the fourth on Jake Marisnick’s double, driving in Patrick Wisdom and Javier Báez, but starter Kwang Hyun Kim and a trio of Cardinals relievers closed out the game.

Before the game, Ross acknowledged a cautiousness to Bryant’s ailment. He said he hadn’t heard of any pain or discomfort in Bryant’s hamstring, which has not required an MRI.

As for whether there’s any protectiveness around Bryant ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, Ross stated his decision making is a “broad spectrum for sure” but with Bryant’s situation “that has not been a factor.”

“I try to listen to him and the trainers and again, being protective of a real valuable piece of our team, and I trust in the player to tell me when they’re ready,” Ross said. “I talk to them, but I trust in them to tell me, ‘Alright, I’m ready to go.’ And so when I know before the game they’re unavailable, I just trust that they’re unavailable. I don’t dig into the reasonings. I don’t think it’s my job to dig into why.”

On Wednesday, Ross anticipated infielder Matt Duffy coming off the injured list before Thursday’s game. But the Cubs needed a fresh bullpen arm with a road night game and quick turnaround to a home day game Friday.

Right-hander Trevor Megill was recalled from Triple-A Iowa while infielder Sergio Alcantara was optioned as the corresponding move. Duffy could be activated from the IL Friday.

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