MILWAUKEE -- The way Nico Hoerner saw things, if there was even a slight chance to get some more games under his belt before the arrival of the offseason, the Cubs shortstop was not going to shut things down.
True, there are only two weeks left, but a strong finish would help Hoerner move on mentally from this injury-plagued season. So he was activated from the 10-day injured list and back at shortstop for the Cubs in Sunday's 6-4 win over the Brewers -- a victory that ended a franchise-record 11-game losing streak to Milwaukee.
"Every year has its challenges," Hoerner said at American Family Field this weekend. "Obviously, it's been more on the physical side for me this year. I've learned a lot through that process, so I'll put it to use these last two weeks."
As the Cubs continue to gather looks and data down the stretch with 2022 in mind, the team wants to play Hoerner consistently at short the rest of the way. Chicago will be in the market for a shortstop this winter, and there will be some high-profile names on the open market.
The Cubs know that the 24-year-old Hoerner is an elite second baseman -- he was a Gold Glove finalist there in '20 -- but the team now has Nick Madrigal in the fold. Madrigal is likely limited to second, while Hoerner is versatile enough to move around the infield, or even get a look in center next year.
Having Hoerner and Madrigal adding contact around more power-based bats is part of the Cubs’ vision for the offense. In Sunday’s game, as an example, while Hoerner did not record a hit, he was slotted behind Patrick Wisdom, who offers an extreme whiff-or-slug profile. In the eighth, Wisdom helped propel Chicago to the victory, launching a three-run shot that gave him a Cubs-rookie-record 27 this season.
How specifically Hoerner will fit into the overall picture will be an ongoing conversation for the winter and next spring.
"It's just nice to be able to write his name in the lineup," Cubs manager David Ross said. "[We'll] watch his at-bats, let him get some [playing time] here at the back-end of the season and just see how it looks at shortstop. It's nice for him just to be a part of the team."
That is because Hoerner has fought through injury setbacks throughout this season. In total, he entered Sunday having missed 90 games while out with health issues.
• On May 2, Hoerner was banged up in a collision in shallow center with outfielder Ian Happ. Hoerner missed eight games due to a left forearm strain.
• On May 25, Hoerner injured his left hamstring while running to first base in Pittsburgh. He missed 36 games while shelved with that injury.
• On July 28, Hoerner sustained a right oblique strain during a plate appearance against the Reds. He missed 46 games while recovering from that issue.
"There's definitely been a lot to take on this year," Hoerner said. "When this year's done, there's going to be a lot to reflect on."
Given all that Hoerner has gone through this season, Ross was asked why the team sees value in having him come off the IL, instead of just shutting him down for the year.
"One, it helps us see, right, and evaluate him," Ross said. "Let him be in an environment that's fun and continue to get good pitching. And then, shortened season last year, not a ton of games last year, injured a lot in the Minor Leagues. Every game matters."
In his return to the lineup, the 24-year-old Hoerner went 0-for-4, following four Minor League rehab games with Triple-A Iowa. On the year, the shortstop has hit .304/.378/.377 in 40 games. It has been a solid showing with room for more -- as Hoerner displayed in Spring Training (1.055 OPS in 17 games)
And while Ross declared that it was "David's turn" when naming David Bote the Opening Day second baseman -- leading to Hoerner starting the year in the Minors -- there will be no denying the young infielder a spot in '22.
In the meantime, Hoerner just wants to make the most of the games left on this season's schedule.
"It's a [13-game] chunk of the Major League season," he said. "It's a pretty awesome chance to play some good baseball and finish the year on the field, play some shortstop. There's a lot of positives and things to learn in a situation like that. So I'm excited."