By Bruce Levine--
CHICAGO (CBS) -- The first big league season is now in the rear-view mirror for 2015 National League Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant. After a satisfying year and a deep run into the playoffs with his team, Bryant has settled down and is preparing for the second year of what should be an exceptional career.
"This has been a really busy offseason," he said during the Cubs Convention over the weekend. "I have been kind of going all over the place, getting awards and getting engaged. I am really getting ready to get off to a good start this spring."
A Las Vegas native, Bryant went through some tough times last spring training. He was asked almost every day about his service time issue and timeline for getting called up to the majors. The Cubs sent him back to the minors to delay his free agency by one year. The polite and thoughtful young third baseman never lost his cool. Bryant did admit by the end of camp that it had taken its toll on him, but he didn't show it as he led the Cactus League with nine homers.
Making his big league debut after missing eight games due to his minor league assignment, Bryant went on to break the Cubs' rookie marks for home runs and RBI. The season ended on a high note for him and a low one for the Cubs, as they lost four straight to the New York Mets in the NLCS while he homered in his last at-bat of the season.
Bryant had 26 homers and 99 RBIs but also 199 strikeouts, which broke the Cubs' all-time single-season mark. Bryant knows this is an area he needs to improve on.
"I need to improve everywhere," Bryant said. "I need to be the best I can be. I will never settle for what I have done OK in the past. If that means working harder to make more contact, you can bet I will do it."
Bryant went from being a below-average fielder to a quality third baseman with hard work and confidence. He also was compliant when manager Joe Maddon needed him in the outfield.
Maddon has said he may ask Bryant to bring a first baseman's glove to camp this spring. The Cubs went through the entire 2015 campaign without a backup first baseman for Anthony Rizzo, who played 161 games and was clearly spent the last six weeks of the year. Being a versatile player, Bryant will look at this request as another fun challenge on the baseball field.
"It's important not to look at the negatives when you play this game," he said. "I am a pretty positive person. I think last year was a really good year for me. I hope to have an even better one."
Bryant's major accomplishment was getting through the grind of around 200 games last season between spring training, the minor, the majors and the playoffs. He'd played a total of 181 minor league games before 2015.
"Yes that was an accomplishment in itself," he said. "Just sitting on the couch this offseason, I reflected on playing in 210 games, including spring training. I was thinking how fortunate I am to play this game. To play 210 games is special, to get through it healthy is even better. Just having played that many games is going to help me (improve)."
Around the holidays, the 24-year-old Bryant got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Jessica Delp. Bryant said he'll let her and his mother handle the wedding plans. In the meantime, Bryant's also engaged in becoming a better player.
"I have been with her a long time, and I know she is the one for me," Bryant said. "Right now it's all about baseball. I am ready to go."
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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