Hoerner's return uncertain after imaging reveals right hand fracture

June 8th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Cubs second baseman went through running drills in left field at Great American Ball Park on Saturday afternoon and wrapped up his workout by signing autographs for a group of fans watching from the stands. When fans can see him take the field again is less clear at the moment.

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Reds, Cubs manager Craig Counsell noted that imaging revealed that Hoerner sustained a small fracture in his right hand when he was hit by a Hunter Greene fastball during Thursday's 8-4 loss in Cincinnati. Counsell noted that multiple doctors said Hoerner could potentially play through the issue, but the Cubs are still weighing if a trip to the injured list is the proper path forward.

“We got a couple of doctors’ opinions,” Counsell said on Saturday. “And both are comfortable with him continuing to play when the pain and swelling subsides. I think right now we have some question whether that's kind of in a 10-day mark, or whether we just kind of play this day by day.

“He’s sore today. He’s got swelling. But all things considered, this is good news, really. And we’re just going to see where we go.”

It was “good news” in the sense that the setback could have been much worse. Hoerner has experience on that front, too, considering he dealt with a more severe fracture with his right wrist as a Minor Leaguer in 2019. It was a similar hit-by-pitch situation, but the current injury is impacting his hand (not the wrist).

The development was nonetheless frustrating for the 27-year-old Hoerner, who is a Gold Glove recipient at second base and one of the leaders behind the scenes for the Cubs. Initially, Hoerner hoped the results of imaging would show only a bone bruise. News of the fracture creates a more challenging scenario.

“It’s definitely a one-day-at-a-time situation,” Hoerner said. “Hand stuff can be a little scary -- just a lot of little things in there. As far as the fracture itself, ‘Can't make it worse,’ is nice to hear. As far as day-to-day pain, I think that is something that you can make worse, unfortunately. So I think it’s being aware of just managing that.”

Counsell said the Cubs would monitor how Hoerner felt on Sunday, when Chicago wraps up its four-game road series with the Reds. The Cubs then have an off-day on Monday, followed by a three-game road set against Tampa Bay. That comes on the front end of a stretch of 18 games in 19 days for Chicago.

If Hoerner does land on the 10-day IL, the Cubs’ backup options at the MLB level right now include David Bote or Christopher Morel. Utility man Miles Mastrobuoni and shortstop prospect Luis Vázquez are on the 40-man roster with Triple-A Iowa. Nick Madrigal is not an option after fracturing his left hand via a hit-by-pitch on Wednesday with Iowa.

Hoerner is hoping this does not develop into a long-term setback, but he also knows he has to be smart about attacking the rehab and returning at the appropriate time.

“It’s making sure that I come back at a time that's as soon as possible,” Hoerner said, “but also in a place that's going to allow me to be a good version of myself and not deal with something that lasts for weeks or months on end. I think that's always the challenging part. People say things like, ‘If it was later in the year, maybe you'd push it.’ It's tough to say those things, because I feel like all games are pretty much created equal.

“And as we saw last year, when seasons come down to one or two games a lot of times, these games are just as important. But you also have to look at the long term. Those are challenging things. Luckily, we have a great support staff and people here that communicate well.”