MESA, Ariz. -- Nico Hoerner has a reputation as a high-contact bat. That’s one reason why the Cubs made him the 24th overall pick out of Stanford in last year’s Draft. What Cubs manager Joe Maddon was curious to see when Hoerner made his first big league start in the Cubs' 7-5 loss to the Rockies on Thursday was just how adjustable that bat really was.
Hoerner had hits in his first two at-bats, including an RBI single. But it was his third trip to the plate against reliever Seunghwan Oh that really piqued the skipper’s interest.
“Watching his swing from the side, the way the bat comes through, I would think he’s purely just a good low-ball hitter,” Maddon said. “Then here came Oh, and I was curious, because he’s an elevated fastball dude. I was curious to see that. And [Hoerner] turned that thing around, like it’s nothing.”
Hoerner ripped a triple to cap a 3-for-3 day.
“Great first start for him,” Maddon said. “Our guys told me they wanted him to play because there’s a lot of confidence to him, and this kid is showing pretty well.”
Though Hoerner was in the lineup in that particular game as the designated hitter, he has a reputation as a strong defender at shortstop and the athleticism to move around the diamond.
“He’s not far away,” Maddon prescribed. “If he catches the ball as well as everybody says he does and is able to work at-bats like we’ve seen, he’s not far off.”
Cubs launching YouTube channel
Though the Cubs’ television network, the Marquee Sports Network, will not be launching until 2020, the team is reportedly going to get a jump on the non-game programming side of the TV business by starting its own YouTube channel.
As first reported by the Chicago Tribune, the channel will launch Monday morning and serve as a sort-of video-based magazine, hosting long-form programming created by Cubs Productions, the club’s Emmy-winning video production team.
“The YouTube channel will give [Cubs Productions] a chance to start stretching their legs a little bit in a more direct-to-consumer way,” Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney told the Tribune. “Obviously the network is the next step.”
Cubs Productions has put together some compelling packages in the past, including a 2018 documentary about Kerry Wood’s epic 20-strikeout game 20 years earlier.
The YouTube channel will give past and future productions (Cubs Productions spent time with several players over the offseason to create new content) a home. And it will grease the wheels for Marquee Sports Network’s offerings next year. Unlike the network, the YouTube channel will not have live games, though it is expected to have highlights.
Montgomery throws in sim game
Because of a left shoulder issue early in camp, Mike Montgomery’s schedule has been a bit askew. But the reason he threw two innings in a simulated game Friday -- as opposed to the big league game the Cubs played in Peoria against the Mariners -- had nothing to do with where he’s at physically. The Cubs just didn’t want to make him make the trek west for a night game.
So Montgomery has been pronounced ready to pitch in a proper game the next time he takes the mound. The Cubs will again build him up to be ready to tolerate a swingman role in which he serves as both a starting and relief option.
“You can’t just go with five starters [over the course of a season],” Maddon said. “Nobody can. He adds a high level to that. The extra guy, then when you fold him back into the bullpen he can be very effective as well. He’s a hybrid. He’s a utility position player, but in the bullpen. I think every team would like to have at least one of those.”
The Cubs will have a split-squad on Saturday, with right-hander Alec Mills getting the 2:05 p.m. CT start against the Angels at Sloan Park and Cole Hamels hitting the road north to Scottsdale Stadium to face the Giants, also at 2:05 p.m.