Cubs’ Nico Hoerner to start at shortstop after return from IL

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Hoerner to start at shortstop for Cubs after IL return originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

If it wasn’t clear already, Nico Hoerner will play shortstop for the Cubs down the stretch, after he comes off the injured list.

And perhaps going forward.

The Cubs are using the rest of the season to evaluate their roster heading into 2022. That includes how Hoerner looks at shortstop.

“He’ll definitely play shortstop when he comes back,” said manager David Ross of Hoerner, who began a rehab assignment with Single-A South Bend Sunday.

“It will be nice to get him back and see what he can do at shortstop.”

Hoerner, who’s been sidelined since July 28 with a right oblique strain, has 34 games of big-league experience at shortstop, his collegiate and minor league position.

The Cubs called him up from Double-A in 2019, when he was on his couch at home in Oakland, to take over as their starting shortstop in a pennant race, following injuries to Javy Báez and Addison Russell.

He moved to second base in 2020, becoming a Gold Glove Award finalist in his first season there.

“One thing I know about Nico is he brings the work ethic, the willingness to get better, the ability to continue to grow in a position,” Ross said. “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 stay on the field, he's a really big piece to this team moving forward.

“Having the ability to watch him play short for a good amount of time will be really nice.”

Where Hoerner plays next season is a bit of a question mark right now. If the Cubs sign a shortstop this winter, he could move to the outfield, with Nick Madrigal as a second base option.

“He’s a special kid,” Ross said of Hoerner. “The more you're around him, he has that baseball rat mentality. He wants to learn every bit of the game.

“The kid loves the game, and I think those guys around a team are infectious and special.”

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