Hoerner set to be everyday SS upon return

August 22nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- Nico Hoerner left Chicago for South Bend, Ind., on Sunday to begin his rehab assignment with High-A South Bend. On Tuesday, the Cubs hope he will head to Des Moines, Iowa, to join Triple-A Iowa. From there, the club will monitor the health of Hoerner’s strained oblique before it determines his return date.

The immediate health results didn’t appear to be pretty. Hoerner, who initially strained his right oblique on a check-swing attempt on July 28, was removed in the middle of his at-bat in the bottom of the third Sunday after swinging at a 1-0 pitch. Hoerner stood in the box for a few moments before walking back to the dugout under his own power.

The team said Hoerner felt increased tension along his right oblique, and wanting to play it safe and not push it, he came out of the game. Hoerner will be reassessed on Monday.

Whether or not the incident sets his timeline back, when Hoerner does eventually make his way back to Chicago, there’s a hole on the left side of the infield that he’ll be expected to fill.

Cubs manager David Ross said Sunday that Hoerner will be the everyday shortstop moving forward. Ross may move Hoerner around the field for lineup and playing time purposes, but for the most part, Cubs fans will get to see Hoerner at the position Chicago hopes will be his for the foreseeable future.

“[It’ll] be nice to get him back and see what he can do at shortstop,” Ross said. “Getting a regular look at him there would definitely be nice for us.”

The position opened up when the Cubs traded longtime mainstay Javier Báez to the Mets at the Trade Deadline. Báez had been the primary shortstop for the Cubs since 2017, so with him headed to New York, the expectation was that the spot would be Hoerner’s for the taking.

Unfortunately, Hoerner has been on the injured list since July 29, meaning he hasn’t even had the opportunity to take over for Báez. But fortunately, Hoerner should have no issue picking up the position quickly.

Hoerner already has plenty of experience at shortstop. With a slew of injuries to the Cubs coming in early September 2019, Chicago called up Hoerner just over a year after drafting him and inserted him into the lineup at short. He played 17 games at the spot over the final three weeks of the year, and he’s doubled that total over the last two seasons.

Though the Cubs haven’t determined when exactly Hoerner will be activated, in Ross’ mind, Hoerner’s previous experience at shortstop means he won’t miss a beat when he shifts over.

“One thing I know about Nico is he brings the work ethic, the willingness to get better, the ability to continue to grow at a position,” Ross said. “I mean, look how fast he picked up second base and how special he was there. I have no doubt in my mind that he can be a big league shortstop on a regular basis. If he can stay healthy and on the field, he's a really big piece to this team moving forward.”

Heuer settling in on the North Side
When Codi Heuer was acquired by the Cubs from the White Sox at the Deadline, one thing he didn’t think about right away was that he’d be missing out on the inaugural Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and the Yankees.

Heuer said that when he watched those two teams put on a show on Aug. 12 at Dyersville, Iowa, he was bummed that he wasn’t able to be a part of the event. However, what’s helped lessen that disappointment -- beyond the fact that the Cubs will now play the Reds at the Field of Dreams in 2022 -- is the role he’s found as a valuable bullpen arm with the North Siders.

“It was a pretty cool experience it looked like those guys got to have, but I've been happy to get settled in with this team and happy about the opportunities here,” Heuer said.

Heuer is 0-1 in nine appearances with the Cubs, but his record doesn’t nearly tell the story of his first month with the club. Heuer sports a 1.64 ERA, he’s allowed just two earned runs over 11 innings and he owns a 1.00 WHIP.

The last six weeks of Chicago’s season will be focused on which players on the active roster are pieces for the future, and from what they’ve seen already, the Cubs expect Heuer to be a key bullpen arm moving forward.

“I think Codi's done a great job since he's been here,” Ross said. “Been a guy that we've trusted at the back end, pitched multiple innings for us. He's played a lot of different roles. He's closed out games, he's held the lead. I think we're really happy about having him and how he fits us going forward.”