Madrigal out to prove he's part of Cubs' future

August 8th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The slider that Marlins lefty Tanner Scott fired in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon bore in on . The Cubs' second baseman pulled the pitch on a low line, sending it beyond the reach of diving shortstop Joey Wendle.

It was the type of hit the Cubs expected to see more often this season from Madrigal -- acquired just before last year's Trade Deadline as a key piece to the future infield picture. A series of injury setbacks have gotten in the way, but the next two months offer a runway for a strong finish.

"I believe the results and everything will take care of itself one way or another," Madrigal said after the Cubs' 3-0 loss in the series finale at Wrigley Field. "I feel like if I'm out there playing, I've got a good chance. That's all I've got to focus on."

Madrigal was an addition of sorts before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline as well. That is when he was activated from the injured list following a bout with a left groin issue. Earlier this season, a lower-back injury cost Madrigal time.

There is no way to say it definitively, but those injuries could be aftereffects of the right hamstring surgery Madrigal underwent in June 2021 while with the White Sox. Madrigal rehabbed and recovered in time for Spring Training, but he has continued to deal with health obstacles.

"The conversations I've had with Nick, he just wants to get back on the field consistently," Cubs manager David Ross said. “Get back into a rhythm. He had so much time off -- the layoff, coming back, not playing the way he wants.

"[He was also] trying to make an impression on a new team, new environment. I think he just wants to go out there and get back to who he was."

Across the 2020-21 seasons with the South Siders, Madrigal was one of baseball's top-tier bats in terms of contact ability. He turned that elite bat-to-ball skill into a .317/.358/.406 slash line in 83 games for the White Sox, striking out 24 times in 324 plate appearances.

With injuries playing a complicating role, Madrigal has hit .227/.270/.252 with a 47 wRC+ this season, indicating he has performed 53 percent below Major League average offensively. His strikeout rate has climbed to 15 percent this season, compared to 7.9 percent in 2021.

"I was playing with a couple different things and just trying to find a groove," Madrigal said. "With the body stuff, I was kind of getting into some bad habits and didn't realize it until I watched some video. Before you know it, we're already three weeks into the season.

"But that's baseball. You've kind of got to battle with it. But at this point, I feel a lot better."

On his most recent Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, Madrigal hit .360 (9-for-25) with two walks, two RBIs, four strikeouts and six runs scored in seven games. Since rejoining the Cubs, he has gone 3-for-11 with one walk in a small but promising sample.

The ninth-inning single off Scott on Sunday came with an exit velocity of 97.8 mph, per Statcast. That represented his seventh-hardest hit of the season, and the best exit velocity he has recorded on a hit since June 10 (98.8 mph). He landed on the IL a few days after that one.

With the addition of utility man Zach McKinstry -- a lefty-hitting option for second base, shortstop and third base -- it will be easier for Ross to build in days of rest for Madrigal. Christopher Morel should also continue to get innings at second.

"He had a really nice rehab assignment, a lot of hits mixed in there," Ross said. "I thought his at-bats [Friday] were phenomenal. That's who he is. Line drives. He's off the barrel. He's in that green space out there. A lot of tough at-bats. The walk was really impressive.

"I think one of the top priorities [over the last two months] is to get to see him as much as possible. And also keep him healthy."

For Madrigal, the goal is to use the remainder of the season to show the Cubs the best version of himself before all the offseason decision-making arrives.

"I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot," Madrigal said. “I feel like I'm seeing the pitches a lot better than I did early in the year. Even my routines daily, I feel like I've gotten back to what I've done my whole life, instead of trying to change things. I definitely think I'm on track."