THIRD BASEMAN Kris Bryant was reassigned by the Chicago Cubs to their minor league camp yesterday despite an outstanding spring training at the plate, triggering a threat of litigation from the players' association.

Bryant hit .425 in the exhibition season with nine homers and 15 RBI in 40 at-bats. If the 23-year-old spends 12 or more days in the minor leagues, Chicago would delay him from becoming eligible for free agency by 1 year, until after the 2021 season, according to baseball's collective bargaining agreement.

"Today is a bad day for baseball," the Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement. "I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs, will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both."

Bryant was slowed defensively in the middle of camp by right-shoulder soreness.

"It's always difficult to send young players down because it is news they don't want to hear," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "We entered camp with the presumptive move of sending him to Triple A, and it is always the presumptive move for us with young players who haven't played in the big leagues yet. You see how camp develops and how the roster shapes up to see if there is grounds for an exception to the rule."

Bryant went from Double A to Triple A at midseason last year. He batted a combined .325 with 43 homers and 110 RBI in 138 games.

He was not available to discuss the decision. His agent, Scott Boras, called it "Ersatz Baseball."

"MLB is not the MLB without the best players," Boras said in a text message to the Associated Press. "Kris excelled at every level and earned the right of entry."

Noteworthy

* Raul Ibanez is moving from the field to the broadcast studio. The former outfielder, a 19-year veteran who played three seasons with the Phillies, will be a studio analyst for Fox this season, the network announced. Ibanez was among the finalists to become Tampa Bay manager, then withdrew from consideration.

* The New York Mets made two trades to bolster a bullpen lacking in lefthanders, acquiring Alex Torres from the San Diego Padres and Jerry Blevins from the Washington Nationals. The Mets sent minor league righthander Cory Mazzoni and a player to be named to the Padres and outfielder Matt den Dekker to the Nationals.

* The Milwaukee Brewers released Chris Perez, ending the former All-Star closer's bid for a setup job in the bullpen. The 29-year-old righthander was with the Brewers on a minor league contract.

* The Cleveland Indians will honor the late Al Rosen this season by wearing his No. 7 jersey number on their jersey sleeves. The AL's MVP in 1953, Rosen died on March 13 at 91.

* Tino Martinez has returned to the New York Yankees as a minor league instructor.