Many Chicago Cubs fans were likely surprised the team did not tab young infielder Nico Hoerner for the Opening Day roster earlier this month.
But Hoerner joined the Cubs on Thursday evening after the team announced outfielder Joc Pederson was being placed on the 10-day injured list. Moreover, Hoerner is immediately getting a starting opportunity Friday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN.
Nico Hoerner gets the start today for the Cubs. Javy Baez batting clean up. Big April series between Cubs/Brewers.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) April 23, 2021
This is a big chance for Hoerner, who spent the first 21 days of the season at the team’s alternate site.
The 23-year-old had been one of Chicago’s top prospects when he arrived as a September call-up in 2019. He impressed over the course of a 20-game stint, hitting .282 with three homers and 17 RBI and playing plus defense.
Hoerner–like many others–struggled in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting just .222 with a .571 OPS. But he was a Gold Glove finalist and inspired quite a bit of excitement when he showed up to camp looking physically stronger.
Indeed, Hoerner had a big spring, hitting .364 with seven extra-base hits in 17 games. But it was not enough to earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster, as the Cubs opted for David Bote and Eric Sogard at second base.
Some Cubs fans posted the notion Hoerner’s demotion was about service-time manipulation. But the team’s willingness to add him to the roster following Pederson’s injury suggests that was never the case.
Chicago’s offense is hoping for sustained momentum after a sweep of the New York Mets. Manager David Ross will give Hoerner the chance to bring his contact-oriented approach and tremendous glovework to the field Friday against the Brewers.
Perhaps Hoerner will stick if he impresses.