PITTSBURGH — It has been a tough month on the injury front for the Cubs, and it just got tougher as they put second baseman Nico Hoerner on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring.
Hoerner was injured in the fifth inning of the Cubs’ 4-3 victory Tuesday while running to first base as he tried to beat out a bunt.
“He’s played incredibly well, and it’s a big loss,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said. “I think the way he plays resonates with the guys.”
It’s the second time this month that Hoerner has been on the IL. His collision with center fielder Ian Happ forced him to miss time with a strained left forearm.
It’s a significant loss for the Cubs because Hoerner has been a spark plug. He’s slashing .338/.405/.432 with seven doubles, three stolen bases and a 137 wRC+ since being recalled from the team’s alternate site April 22.
“He’s a baseball player, man,” manager David Ross said earlier this season. “He’s a really good baseball player. That’s what I love about him. He’s always studying and trying to be better. He’s got a plan, and he’s willing to do anything we ask. It’s a really consistent at-bat. . . . He’s out to prove something, which is a really powerful thing.”
That energy has carried over to his defense. Hoerner has been one of the best glove men in baseball with a plus-four defensive runs saved and plus-five outs above average.
“He’s so valuable,” Hoyer said. “The quickness he has when he’s playing that rover spot in the shift, he’s so good at it. I feel like we’ve saved a lot of runs that way.”
The Cubs will have to try to optimize their lineup as best they can with Hoerner on the shelf. A strained hamstring is a tricky injury, and it likely will be at least three to four weeks before he returns.
“Really tough to see,” right-hander Jake Arrieta said. “I mean, he was very emotional, and rightfully so. He works tremendously hard. He takes care of himself and prepares as well as anybody that I’ve ever seen.
“I feel bad for him, and I feel bad for our team. But we’ve shown the ability to have other guys step up and fill a role until guys like that get healthy. So hopefully we’re still able to do that and move on and fill the gap until he’s healthy.”
The return of outfielders Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward, who are on the IL, will help. Both have progressed and are close to coming back.
When they get back, Kris Bryant can go back to the infield. Bryant has played primarily in the outfield this season, but with Hoerner’s injury, the team’s needs have changed. David Bote and Eric Sogard will split time at second base.
“[Bryant is] playing a good outfield and playing at an MVP level at the plate,” Ross said. “So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, in my mind. But, yeah, that’s definitely an option.”