Infielder Nico Hoerner spent the first couple weeks of the season watching a lot of baseball, just not from the vantage point he expected.
Optioned to the alternate site in South Bend, Indiana, just before the season started, Hoerner did his best to stay plugged in with the big-league club through his hotel television.
“I spent a lot of time watching Cubs baseball,” Hoerner said. “Definitely like to keep up with how the guys are doing. I like watching my friends play and watching peoples’ at-bats.”
It was hard for him to watch as the team struggled, and it was tough to adjust to being at the alternate site instead of in Chicago. Hoerner didn’t expect to be optioned.
“I was really surprised,” Hoerner said, “but I was proud of the work I put in in the offseason and how I showed myself in spring training, and I had no regrets on my end. I think that makes hard news a lot easier to handle.”
Hoerner went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Friday and drove in two more runs Saturday, but going forward, it’s not certain whether he will stick in the majors for good this season. Still, Hoerner expects to be a starter whenever he’s in the big leagues for keeps.
“Being a starting player in the major leagues is something that has to be earned,” Hoerner said. “And I’ll continue to prove that, and I think the opportunity will be there if I do that.”
Stick to the plan or ride the hot hand?
This week, outfielder Jake Marisnick put together a short run of really nice games, capping them off with a five-RBI day Friday, but he was not in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Brewers.
Cubs manager David Ross said that he thinks about who is hitting well and sometimes rides the hot hand, but there are a lot of factors that go into each lineup decision.
“I wouldn’t say that I have any secret formula,” Ross said. “I try to watch with my eyes, I try to look at the matchups, try to see personnel-wise who the bench guy might be that might match up well. It’s kind of a mixed bag of things that I try to look at.”
This includes pitching matchups, needed days of rest, and occasionally letting a guy stay in the lineup to push through a cold stretch.
“The only way a lot of times to work through some struggles is to get out there and compete and continue to grind and find it,” Ross said.
Brewers still without Yelich
The Brewers were eligible to activate 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich for this weekend’s series, but instead they sent him to Milwaukee on Friday for an MRI on his lower back.
“Nothing bad happened yesterday,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He did the day of work that we were expecting. We’re just at a plateau, and so we’re just trying to rule everything out and see if we can get any new bit, just another piece of information.”
Yelich has not played since April 11.