Twenty minutes before the skies opened up over PNC Park, the cool fall weather in full force, Nico Hoerner was in his position at shortstop.
Hoerner hadn’t made a throw on the field from his position since 9/11, when imagery revealed he suffered a mild to moderate sprain in his right triceps. The injury did not occur during a singular throw, but rather during an attempted dive on a ball down the middle.
“When it happened, it wasn’t like, ‘Dang, I’m hurt. I’m going to miss a lot of time,'” Hoerner said Thursday. happened. … There will always be things that play the way I play and that will appear. There will be everyday things for each player, but especially playing in the middle of the field, and if you force something, you want to do it by trying to doing a diving game and having a tight game at the start. No regrets about that, I was ready to play. I felt good physically and it was a shame, but you move on.
With 12 games left after the Cubs’ opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hoerner isn’t ruling out a return this season. That would be his ideal outcome.
“If I’m in a place where I’m healthy and have a good chunk of games left, like 30 or 40 at bats, I think that’s valuable time,” he said.
Hoerner reiterated that it has to make physical sense for him to come back and everyone has to be on the same page. He knows the end of the season is just around the corner, but seems confident a comeback is a realistic goal.
When healthy, Hoerner has proven to be a dynamic all-rounder who has thrived in the move from second base to daily shortstop this season. While he may face another positional shift for 2023, pending offseason organizational moves, Hoerner has shown he can be the fundamental type of player the Cubs need for a successful rebuild. And, more importantly, Hoerner showed he was capable of staying healthy and enduring over a long season.
His 125 games and 477 board appearances both exceed his first three years of big league experience, playing 112 games and making 378 AP since his debut in 2019. Some of his playing time in 2020 was limited by his performances because he was struggling to get by. follow offensively.
Aside from an ankle injury that cost him 12 games after colliding with a referee in May, Hoerner had been a staple in the Cubs’ roster prior to his triceps issue. It’s a stark contrast to last season, when Hoerner went on the three-injury disabled list four times. Hoerner’s training adjustments during the offseason and the way he prepared for 2022 paid off. He plans to take a step back after the season to analyze how his previous training plan set up his body to handle the six-month grind. Hoerner plans to use a similar schedule this offseason.
“I’m really proud of how I handled the things that I dealt with last year, from my hamstrings to my obliques – those are the core muscles in baseball, like, you hear those words all time and those are the ones you want to be on knowing how to take care of yourself,” Hoerner said. “It’s a shame that I had to run out of time to learn this process, but I’m really proud of how I played all year, physically so I could play every day for the long stretch we had in August, pretty much play every game and feel good physically.
“Honestly, the best I felt physically was in early September, so I’m really happy about that.”
Around this time last year, Hoerner was also at PNC Park, but instead of sitting in the visitors’ dugout to discuss a return as he did on Thursday, it was closed with one week of games remaining due to persistent oblique tightness. Hoerner’s value in the Cubs’ roster puzzle is much clearer come September, and the pivotal role he could play in how the front office builds its next playoff-contending roster.
“I always believed that if I had a full season to play, I would know exactly what it would be like, that I would be doing a job that I would be proud of,” Hoerner said. “And there’s a ton to build on this year. By no means do I really believe in caps for baseball players. There are so many fluctuations from year to year and I continue to grow with all the opportunities I have.