Nico Hoerner batted fifth and started at shortstop on Sunday in his first action for the Chicago Cubs since July 28.
Being sidelined for nearly two months with a right oblique strain, then returning to a team out of the playoff hunt, might be incentive to simply stay away from further baseball activity. In essence, to wait until next year.
For Hoerner, that hardly was a consideration. He wants to be in the Chicago lineup for the regular-season stretch run, which continues Tuesday as the Cubs (67-83) open a two-game home interleague series against the Minnesota Twins (65-85).
“It’s a pretty awesome chance to play some good baseball and finish the year on the field, play some shortstop,” Hoerner said. “There’s a lot of positives and things to learn in a situation like that, so I’m excited.”
Hoerner’s 2021 season has featured its share of injuries and subsequent changes after playing primarily at second base the last two seasons.
A wave of transactions near the July 30 trade deadline brought injured second baseman Nick Madrigal from the crosstown Chicago White Sox and shipped shortstop Javier Baez to the New York Mets.
While the Cubs are believed to have interest in a shortstop in free agency this winter, Hoerner is eager to remind the organization of his value and versatility as the Cubs play out the schedule.
“Every year has its challenges,” Hoerner said. “Obviously, it’s been more on the physical side for me this year. I’ve learned a lot through that process, so I’ll put it to use these last two weeks.”
The Cubs snapped a four-game losing streak with Sunday’s 6-4 victory in Milwaukee. Patrick Wisdom slammed his 27th home run to set the franchise rookie record.
Minnesota has lost six of eight after falling 5-3 at Toronto on Sunday afternoon to secure its third straight series defeat.
Former Twins ace Jose Berrios became Minnesota’s problem Sunday, pitching into the seventh inning to beat his former club, with whom he began the season. He was dealt when the Twins showed they were not up to the task of defending their American League Central title.
“I would not have anticipated it in any way,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said of the team’s rocky 2021. “But here we are, and we have to react to everything that goes on. Things don’t always go according to the plan that you lay out. You have to do what’s best, even if that’s not something you planned for and you hadn’t thought about it for a long period of time.”
The Twins’ Josh Donaldson was hit by a pitch on the right elbow in the fourth inning but remained in the game.
The Twins’ Griffin Jax (3-4, 6.65 ERA) is set to oppose the Cubs’ Alec Mills (6-6, 4.50 ERA) on Tuesday in a meeting of right-handers.
A rookie, Jax has not faced the Cubs in his career. He his 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA in three September starts covering 15 1/3 innings.
Mills barely has been better this month, pitching to a 5.51 ERA in three no-decisions covering 16 1/3 innings. He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in one career start against Minnesota.
–Field Level Media