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Prospects live up to hype -- for a day at least

MESA, Ariz. -- The day after Chicago Cubs prospects Albert Almora and Kris Bryant stole headlines in a 15-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Game 2 of Cactus League play, the Cubs locker room was still talking about their performance. In particular, that of Bryant, who hit a 420-foot home run in his first spring at-bat on Friday.

Meanwhile, the two players took all the hype in stride.

“At home we really didn’t talk about it, listening to music and stuff,” Bryant’s roommate Almora said of their Friday night. “It’s part of baseball. We’ll have our ups and downs.”

Friday was definitely an “up” for the two of them. Almora doubled before Bryant brought him home with his shot on a 3-2 count. It came after Bryant fouled off several pitches before hitting a hanging slider.

“I saw the pitch all the way,” Almora said regarding his view from second base. “I knew it was going to be trouble. I knew it wasn’t going to come back.”

First base coach Eric Hinske added: “More impressive to me was the at-bat itself. It was a long one... The ball just doesn’t come down. He has that type of long pop. Reminds me of young Troy Glaus. It’s those huge, high home runs.”

So the question on Saturday morning came back to if and when the prospects are going to be ready for the big leagues. So far, Bryant has dominated every opportunity since being drafted last June -- including Friday’s first at-bat.

“Dominate” is the word the front office uses to describe what the young prospects need to do in the minors before moving up. But it’s not just the fans who are anxious to see them in the majors. Veterans players like Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija have expressed their curiosity throughout camp.

“I have a different view of it than from a business standpoint,” Rizzo said.

“Performance plays,” Samardzija said. “If you go out and don’t give them many options, sometimes you take the decision out of their hands, if you come out and play well. That’s what those guys would tell you, you want to come out and impress enough where you don’t give the front office any options to not keep you on the team.”

There’s been no indication the Cubs are willing to waver from their plan and one at-bat in the spring certainly isn’t going to -- and shouldn’t -- change their minds. But if one at-bat turns into 20 or 30, maybe things are re-thought. For now, even teammates can marvel at Bryant’s first big swing.

“I kind of would have liked to see it,” said Rizzo who had the day off on Friday. “It’s good for him, it’s good for the organization.”