PHOENIX -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes what he's seen of Kris Bryant lately, but it's been a struggle for the third baseman, who is dealing with a sprained little finger on his left hand that won't go away.
"It's brutal," Bryant said about dealing with the injury, which he suffered July 19 in Atlanta sliding into third base. "Every day, it swells up. It's actually kind of annoying to go in the training room every day to do all this work just to feel good. Sometimes, you have to go through that."
Bryant -- who knocked in both of the Cubs' runs with a ninth-inning single in a 6-2 loss to the D-backs on Saturday night -- isn't blaming the injury for the drop in home runs. He hit four in his past 34 games.
"There's no excuses," he said. "You deal with stuff like this all the time -- the sores, the aches and pains. This year, it happens to be my hand. I won't use that as an excuse for anything."
Maddon liked what he saw on Friday when Bryant reached base five times, including three singles. He is batting .372 (16-for-43) in 11 games this month.
"K.B. might be finding that little niche in his swing right now," Maddon said.
What's the difference?
"For lack of better terms, [he's] longer out front [with his swing] -- flatter, longer out front, where the bat stays in the zone longer as opposed to coming in and out of the zone," Maddon said.
Maddon knows Bryant won't make excuses. The manager reminded Bryant on Friday to let Maddon know if he needs a breather.
"Even when he's not 100 percent, he still contributes to winning," Maddon said. "Even if he's not getting home run hits, he's still getting on base, he's still got a high OPS. He's just a good baseball player. If you're not getting everything he's capable of, it's still probably a lot more than the average guy gives."
With Willson Contreras sidelined for at least four weeks because of a hamstring strain, will the Cubs need Bryant to step up?
"It's only fair if he's really feeling 100 percent," Maddon said. "Otherwise, I'll take what he's got. You see all the little things he does well. It's not always translated into homers. I think up and down the lineup, you see guys perk up. We have it -- look at the names in the lineup, it's all there. The abilities are there. Even without Willson, we're still good."
Wilson seeking form with Cubs
Maddon also talked to Justin Wilson recently, trying to help the lefty reliever relax. Against the D-backs on Friday, Wilson threw 17 pitches, but only seven for strikes, and was lifted after giving up a hit and a walk. He did strike out one batter.
"The stuff is really good," Maddon said of Wilson. "It's just putting the ball where he wants to now. His command is evading him a little bit.
"He said he's gone through these moments before. I said, 'Listen, coming over in these circumstances is a little different for you. Believe me, I have a lot of patience and respect for your abilities, so just go pitch.'"
Catcher Alex Avila knows Wilson better than anyone on the Cubs; they were teammates on the Tigers before being traded to Chicago. Avila talked to Wilson after Friday's outing.
"His stuff is tremendous," Avila said. "Maybe at times he's been overthrowing a little bit. He's been pretty amped up every time he's come out, and maybe trying to be too fine with his pitches. That will happen with everybody. Like I told him, he'll get back in a role that he's had before. With his arsenal, Joe will keep putting him out there in big situations, and he'll be big for us."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since
2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter
@CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.