PITTSBURGH – Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner fielded the ground ball and, for the first time since straining his right triceps a week and a half ago, threw across the diamond to first base.
“It was solid,” he said before the Cubs series opener against the Pirates on Thursday. “I feel like I wasn’t changing my throwing motion or anything and felt healthy doing it.”
The Cubs classified the strain as “mild to moderate,” and have not put Hoerner on the injured list. Hoerner confirmed Thursday that he still expects to return before the end of the season.
“I’m not going to do it if it doesn’t make sense physically,” he said. “But if I’m in a place where I’m healthy and there’s a good chunk of games left – if it’s 30 or 40 at bats left to have, I think that’s valuable time, and it’s fun, and just a chance to finish the year on the field and take that in the offseason.
“It’s not a need to check this or that box statistically or anything like that. It’s just, you really only get to play for so long. So, when you do have the chance and you’re healthy, I do want to be out there.”
Hoerner has already played a career-high 125 games this season. His previous season high came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he played 48 games. Last year, he was limited by a series of injuries, including a strained left hamstring and a strained right oblique.
“Those are core baseball muscles, you hear those words all the time, and those are ones that you want to be on top of and know how to take care of yourself,” Hoerner said.”So, it’s too bad that I had to miss time to learn that process. But I’m really proud of how I played throughout [this] year physically, being able to play every single day, going through the long stretch we had in August pretty much playing every game and feeling good physically. I mean, honestly, the best I felt physically [all season] was in early September.”
South Bend champions
The Single-A South Bend Cubs claimed the Midwest League title in a 7-4 win against Lake County on Wednesday.
“Putting your organization and your players in the championship environment, in the playoff environment, is extremely helpful,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Because there’s a development process that you go through in the minor leagues and things that you do throughout a season that may not be all about just winning that day.
“And once you get to that winning environment, you get to learn those little details about what it takes to do that. And the more we get guys in that space, the better off we’ll be.”
Three Cubs minor-league affiliates made their respective playoffs this year. The Low-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans fell in their division series. The Double-A Tennessee Smokies played Game 2 of their division series on Thursday.
Suzuki not expected in Pittsburgh
Right fielder Seiya Suzuki is not expected back during a four-game series. As of Thursday afternoon, he and his wife were still awaiting the birth of their child. The Cubs put Suzuki on the paternity list last Saturday, and when he reached the three-day maximum, they transferred him to the restricted list as a procedural move.