Hosmer guiding rookie Mervis: 'He's been supportive the whole way'

May 8th, 2023

CHICAGO -- spotted at his locker in the Cubs' clubhouse on Saturday morning and headed over. The veteran extended his hand and pulled the rookie into a quick hug, chatting for a moment and sharing a laugh before each returned to his daily routine.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Mervis' arrival ahead of this series against the Marlins, and it was a decision that directly impacted Hosmer. Calling up Mervis, the club’s No. 6 prospect, meant the elder first baseman would shift to a bench role, which he willingly accepted.

"He's been awesome since the first day of Spring Training," Mervis said. "The first day we met, he did the same thing. He came over, he introduced himself, he gave me a big dap up and a hug."

Hosmer was pumping his fist and letting out a yell as he left the batter's box in the ninth inning of Sunday afternoon's 5-4, 14-inning loss to Miami at Wrigley Field. He got the nod as the designated hitter in the series finale, and his game-tying RBI single ended Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara's day.

The grounder up the middle by Hosmer came on Alcantara's 113th pitch of the day and pulled the contest into a 2-2 deadlock. Two batters later, Mervis had a chance to walk things off, but he struck out looking against lefty A.J. Puk. That set off a tug-o-war between the clubs that lasted beyond a second rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Mervis -- who saw a slew of tough arms in his first taste of MLB pitching this weekend -- finished the day 2-for-6. The rookie slugger has recorded a hit in all three of his games in the big leagues, but he also came up empty in a handful of chances in extra innings.

This is where Hosmer's experience can come into play, talking through scenarios, adjustments and planning for the next time Mervis encounters a similar situation against high-caliber pitching.

"It's been fun as we've gotten to know each other," Hosmer said. "He's a competitor. And he obviously has the tools. I think the mental tools are what he really has."

The 33-year-old Hosmer understood the landscape when he signed a league-minimum contract over the offseason to play for the Cubs. He knew he was joining a cast of veterans on a roster featuring younger talent, too. Hosmer knew this was a chance to help lend his voice to a club trying to push back toward playoff contention.

Hosmer was also fully aware that Mervis was a hot start away from getting the call to The Show. The 25-year-old had 36 homers and a .984 OPS across three levels in 2022, while leading all of the Minors in RBIs (119). Mervis did more of the same in the first month this year with Triple-A Iowa.

"Matty's a guy that the whole league is aware about," Hosmer said. "There's so much information about prospects now. I think a lot more people are up to date on that stuff, as social media and all that stuff is out there."

Hosmer also said manager David Ross and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer were "open and up front" about how things could play out. Mervis is going to get the lion's share of at-bats and play first regularly, splitting time with Trey Mancini and Hosmer between first and DH.

“Hos has been as pro as it gets,” Ross said. “He understands that it's all about winning and trying to help the next guy and giving back. When you have veterans that feel like they want to give back to our game and the players that are coming, I think it's very important.”

Hosmer said more veteran players like Alex Gordon, Miguel Tejada and Raúl Ibañez were critical in his early years breaking in with the Royals. The veteran first baseman noted that Ibañez, specifically, was influential in how he handled being a 42-year-old role player for the 2014 Kansas City team that reached the World Series.

At this stage in his career, Hosmer has been an All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and World Series champion over the course of 13 seasons. That is a lot of experience to bring to Chicago's clubhouse, during conversations off the field or while going through fielding and hitting work at the ballpark.

"He's been supportive the whole way," Mervis said. "He worked with me defensively in Spring Training. He mentioned getting to work on defense here. It means a lot to me. He's a guy that has accomplished so much in his career and won and done an incredible job in his time in the big leagues.

"To have somebody like that in my corner, it means a lot to me and makes me excited to get to work with him."