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Kris Bryant: 'I couldn't be happier'

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant kept the heat on the team's front office by hitting his seventh and eighth home runs of the spring Saturday, including a first-inning shot off former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.

"I couldn't be happier with where I am right now," Bryant said after the Cubs' 12-10 victory over the Mariners. "It gives me a whole lot of confidence heading into the season."

Bryant has four more home runs than anyone else in the Cactus or Grapefruit leagues despite being slowed by a sore shoulder. He has more home runs this spring than the entire Miami Marlins team and actually hit a ninth home run in a "B" game earlier this week.

"It's the complete opposite of last year," he said. "I struggled to get going."

The No. 2 overall pick in 2013 is trying to make it tough on the Cubs to start him at Triple-A Iowa next month as he and his agent, Scott Boras, spoke up about the situation recently. If Bryant begins the season in the minors the Cubs can get an extra year of service time before he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season. If he breaks camp with the team and stays in the majors, he'll become a free agent after 2020.

"I've said it all along: I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder but at the same time having fun," Bryant stated. "You really can't beat baseball. The sun is shining."

Bryant is known for his humble attitude as much as he is for his home runs. He led the minors last season with 43 split between Double-A and Triple-A.

The Cubs say he might need more work on his defense, and after missing time due to the sore shoulder, he was back at third base Saturday, assisting on five ground balls.

"I come out and work as hard as I can, trying to get better at third base," he said. "I got my game reps in today and I felt really good over there. I'm real confident there, and in the box I'm seeing the ball really well."

Bryant was pleased both his home runs came with two strikes and on breaking pitches.

"It hit the fat part of my bat," he said of his first one off Hernandez. "It felt really good coming off."

After Boras was critical of the Cubs' potential handling of his client, Bryant and Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked just to make sure the player was doing all right with all the attention on him. Bryant doesn't know Maddon well but is starting to feel more comfortable with the first-year Cubs manager.

"I'm not scared to talk to him anymore about anything," Bryant said.

He was asked if his goal was still to make the team despite common thinking that the Cubs will give him a couple of weeks at Triple-A Iowa to gain that extra year of employment.

"I'm still here," he said, smiling. "I'm still standing."