Hoerner open to shortstop, roving role in '22

September 30th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- would love nothing more than to be the Cubs' starting shortstop on an everyday basis next season. He also understands a willingness to be flexible could help Chicago's front office.

In the Cubs' quest to enhance their offense and defense this offseason, shortstop could be an area they target. With Nick Madrigal in the plans for second base, Hoerner knows he could be pushed into a regular, albeit roving role.

"When you look at some of the most successful teams in the league, they have guys that are able to do that," Hoerner said. "If that's something that's part of what I do here in the future, then definitely [I'm open to it]."

Hoerner, who has been shut down for the season due to lingering soreness from an injury-plagued campaign, met with media in the PNC Park visitors' dugout on Thursday afternoon.

Hoerner agreed that his ability to move all over the diamond -- he was a Gold Glove finalist at second in 2020, and he has experience at short, third and in the outfield -- could help out president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer.

"Flexibility is something that definitely helps in a situation like that," Hoerner said. "I really believe in my ability to play shortstop. And I'm going to prepare to play there at an everyday level if that's the opportunity. If it's somewhere else, then I'll do that.

"The chance to play in the middle of the field every day for the Chicago Cubs is pretty awesome, regardless of where it is. So I think I'll always have that in the back of my head."

This season, Hoerner hit .302 with a 105 OPS+, but he was limited to 44 games due to a number of health setbacks -- most recently, a right oblique issue. He plans on giving an "honest look" at his training program and production as he plots out his winter routine.

Chicago likes the idea of having the contact-based bats of Hoerner and Madrigal in the lineup in 2022. Hoyer did, however, note in a recent discussion that the team has to be open-minded about how Hoerner fits in the defensive puzzle.

"Absolutely," Hoyer said. "He's going to be a significant piece of our team next year and going forward. I think exactly what position is sort of undecided. But that's the beauty of it. As we go into this offseason, he allows us, we can make different decisions. It doesn't force us one way or the other."

Reserves arrive in Pittsburgh
One day after third baseman Patrick Wisdom was placed on the injured list with an undisclosed reason, catcher Austin Romine landed on the IL as well. Once again, the Cubs did not provide the specifics of the setback.

Typically, that indicates a situation related to COVID-19, but the Cubs have not announced any details along those lines. That said, Chicago did select a catcher (Erick Castillo) from Triple-A Iowa and also brought a five-man taxi squad to Pittsburgh.

"They're here as an abundance of caution," Cubs manager David Ross said. "You've got to have some backups in case something is more serious. We're still running through all the testing. I think we've got it, for now, contained."

Catcher Tyler Payne, lefty Joe Biagini and righty Dakota Mekkes, along with infielders Jared Young and Tyler Ladendorf, were all up from the Minors and in Pittsburgh with the Cubs on Thursday.

Worth noting
• After five seasons in the Minor Leagues, infielder Trent Giambrone finally got his call to The Show. In the eighth inning on Wednesday, the rookie singled to left on the first pitch he saw on baseball's biggest stage.

"I couldn't be happier for him," Ross said of the Cubs' 25th-round pick from the 2016 MLB Draft. "He goes through some adversity throughout the season, gets this callup here to fill some holes and you get your first big league knock.

"That's a big thing that nobody can ever take away from him."

• When Castillo makes his MLB debut for the Cubs, he will be the eighth catcher used this year for the team. Per Cubs historian Ed Hartig, that will tie a single-season franchise record. Chicago also used eight catchers in 1960, 1916 and 1885.

• Righty Zach Davies' season is done. The Cubs have not announced a starter for Friday in St. Louis, but the team decided shutting Davies down was the best approach. He ended the year 6-12 with a 5.78 ERA in 32 turns.

"I'm sure Nico wants to win and have a position, but I think to maximize the flexibility of the roster and our team, that could be a huge value." --Ross, on using Hoerner at multiple spots