Cubs’ Nico Hoerner wants to finish strong after frustrating seasonRussell Dorseyon September 19, 2021 at 10:42 pm

MILWAUKEE — Nico Hoerner was expected to be a big part of the Cubs’ plans this season, but the second-year infielder hasn’t been able to make the impact the team had expected due to injuries.

Hoerner has had three lengthy stints on the injured list this year suffering a left forearm strain in a collision, left hamstring strain while running the bases and a right oblique strain while swinging the bat. In total, he’s been forced to miss 90 games this season due to injury.

He started for the first time since July 29 in Sunday’s 6-4 win over the Brewers as the team activated him from the IL. Hoerner went 0-for-4 in his return.

“Definitely been a lot to take on this year,” Hoerner said on Saturday. “I think every year comes with challenges like that. I think we talked about just playing these last two weeks, and that being my focus right now, obviously. But definitely when this year is done, there will be a lot to reflect on.”

After his latest rehab assignment slowed after he felt discomfort in his oblique, it’s natural to wonder if the Cubs should just shut him down.

But after missing so much time, Hoerner looks at the final two weeks as an opportunity. Not only to finish the year healthy, but have something positive to go into the offseason with.

“It’s 10-15 games in the Major Leagues,” Hoerner said. That’s a pretty awesome chance to play some good baseball and finish the year on the field. Play some shortstop. Like there’s a lot of positives and things to learn in a situation like that.

“Every year has its challenges. Obviously, it’s been more on the physical side for me this year. And I’ve learned a lot in that process and put it to use these last two weeks.”

Hoerner has had a strange first few seasons in the big leagues and after dealing with injuries throughout his professional career, he’s yet to get a full season under his belt. It’s understandable why the Cubs would want Hoerner to finish the season out to continue to see him develop and play in games.

“If you’re a real competitor and you like your job, you want to play,” manager David Ross said. “I mean, at the end of the day, he’s a baseball player who wants to play baseball. So like, it doesn’t matter if it’s a game, you know?

“It helps us see and evaluate him and then still just like, let him be in an environment that is fun, and continue to see good pitching. And then like, [with the] short season last year and not a ton of games this year, injured a lot in the minor leagues, every game matters, you know? The at-bats and all that stuff is this healthy.”

Hoerner is a big part of the Cubs’ future and will be one of the players expected to make a big contribution to next season’s roster along with the likes of guys like Nick Madrigal and Willson Contreras.

Hoerner’s versatility is going to be an important part of that puzzle. While he’s moved around the diamond a lot over his first few seasons, he’s excited to get a chance to play shortstop everyday for the time being.

“To play short again is really exciting,” Hoerner said. “Being down there and playing the last four games at shortstop is a lot of fun. Something I’ve done my whole life and I love doing. So definitely excited to do that at this level a little more.”

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