Notes: Hoerner set to return; bullpen

March 15th, 2021

Despite his best effort at convincing manager David Ross otherwise, remained out of the Cubs’ lineup for Monday’s 4-4 tie vs. the White Sox, a day after getting scratched with lower back tightness.

But Hoerner should be back Wednesday to resume his bid for the starting second-base job.

“He’s feeling much better,” Ross said. “He was fighting for me to put him in the lineup today, but it didn’t make sense with the off day [Tuesday].”

Hoerner was previously scheduled to have Wednesday off, with fellow second-base candidate David Bote off on Monday. The brief back issue for Hoerner allowed Ross to flip-flop the two, so Hoerner ultimately will get his lost at-bats back.

Bote, meanwhile, ripped two doubles and drove in a run in Monday’s game.

So the second-base competition is an increasingly interesting subplot in Cubs camp. Hoerner has certainly made the most of his at-bats so far. He is 9-for-18 with a homer, three doubles and two stolen bases in seven Cactus League games. Driving the ball with more authority all over the field pairs with the 23-year-old Hoerner’s established strengths on defense and the basepaths to make him an especially intriguing player this spring.

In addition to Bote, Ildemaro Vargas (out of Minor League options) and veteran Eric Sogard (non-roster invitee) are also in the mix at second. Hoerner has made a strong bid for the regular at-bats, though his relative lack of experience (375 career Minor League plate appearances) must also be taken into account.

Who’s left?
is a lock for the bullpen, but whether the Cubs will carry a second lefty remains to be seen.

One potential option is non-roster invitee , who has yet to allow a run through five innings of Cactus play. He faced the top of the Angels’ lineup Sunday and, despite walking Mike Trout, was able to retire David Fletcher, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon.

“He’s looked really good,” Ross said. “Everything’s been around the zone. He’s throwing strikes. That’s really the only issue he’s had in his career is being around the plate. It hasn’t even been an issue in this camp.”

Another lefty relief candidate, , made his first appearance in a Cactus game Monday against the Sox. Wieck had a setback with his right hamstring early in the spring that caused a delay. But the big lefty looked sharp against the Sox, pitching a 1-2-3 sixth inning with a strikeout and two popups.

The other lefty relievers still in camp are Brailyn Márquez, Adam Morgan, Kyle Ryan and Justin Steele.

Worth noting
• The Cubs slightly trimmed the spring roster Monday. Right-hander Keegan Thompson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, and infielder Trent Giambrone was assigned to Minor League camp. That brings the roster from 49 to 47 players.

• A reporter suggested that March 15 might be a good time to announce the Cubs’ Opening Day starter.

“It’s not,” Ross quickly countered, good-naturedly.

Kyle Hendricks pitches Wednesday, so perhaps that will prove a good time to announce it.

• The Cubs are among the increasing number of teams who utilize virtual-reality technology to prepare for opposing pitchers.

"I would like to see what kind of hitter I'd be with all this technology,” Ross said. “I still think I'd stink."

• Former Cubs prospect Eloy Jiménez got some revenge on his old club with three RBIs in Monday’s game.

• Right-hander Shelby Miller’s two scoreless innings Monday lowered his spring ERA to 1.29. He remains a candidate for a multi-inning-relief/spot-starter role.

Up next
The Cubs are off Tuesday before resuming their Cactus League schedule at 8:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday against the Padres at Sloan Park. Hendricks will make the start opposite fellow right-hander Chris Paddack. The game will be available on MLB.TV and MLB Network.