Cubs’ Nico Hoerner picking up where he left off in spring training

It’s not certain whether he will stick in the majors for good this season, but Hoerner expects to be a starter whenever he’s in the big leagues for keeps.

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Kansas City Royals v Chicago Cubs

Nico Hoerner drove in two runs Saturday after going 3-for-4 with an RBI on Friday.

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Infielder Nico Hoerner spent the first couple of weeks of the season watching a lot of baseball, just not from the vantage point he expected. 

Optioned to the alternate site in South Bend, Indiana, just before the season started, Hoerner did his best to stay plugged in with the big-league club through his hotel TV.

“I spent a lot of time watching Cubs baseball,” Hoerner said. “I definitely like to keep up with how the guys are doing. I like watching my friends play and watching people’s at-bats.”

It was hard for him to watch as the team struggled, and it was tough to adjust to being at the alternate site instead of in Chicago. Hoerner didn’t expect to be optioned.

“I was really surprised,” Hoerner said, “but I was proud of the work I put in during the offseason and how I showed myself in spring training, and I had no regrets on my end. I think that makes hard news a lot easier to handle.”

Hoerner went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Friday and drove in two more runs Saturday, but it’s not certain whether he’ll stick in the majors for good this season. Hoerner, however, expects to be a starter whenever he’s in the big leagues for keeps.

“Being a starting player in the major leagues is something that has to be earned,” Hoerner said. “And I’ll continue to prove that, and I think the opportunity will be there if I do that.”

The plan or the hot hand?

This week, outfielder Jake Marisnick put together a short run of really nice performances, capping them off with a five-RBI game Friday, but he was not in the starting lineup Saturday against the Brewers.

Manager David Ross said that he thinks about who is hitting well and sometimes rides the hot hand, but there are a lot of factors that go into each lineup decision.

“I wouldn’t say that I have any secret formula,” Ross said. “I try to watch with my eyes, I try to look at the matchups, try to see personnel-wise who the bench guy might be that might match up well. It’s kind of a mixed bag of things that I try to look at.”

This includes pitching matchups, needed days of rest and occasionally letting a guy stay in the lineup to push through a cold stretch.

“A lot of times, the only way to work through some struggles is to get out there and compete and continue to grind and find it,” Ross said.

Brewers still without Yelich

The Brewers were eligible to activate 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich for this series, but they sent him to Milwaukee on Friday for an MRI exam on his lower back.

“Nothing bad happened yesterday,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He did the day of work that we were expecting. We’re just at a plateau, so we’re trying to rule everything out and see if we can get just another piece of information.”

Yelich has not played since April 11.

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