Nico Hoerner (right oblique strain) beginning baseball activities

Hoerner has been on the 10-day injured list since July 29 with a right oblique strain.

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Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals

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DENVER — Second baseman Nico Hoerner hasn’t had the easiest season, and after getting off to a red-hot start, he has had a tough time staying on the field.

Hoerner has been on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain since July 29 but has begun to make some progress. The 24-year-old infielder went through about an hour of on-field agility drills and played catch for the first time since the injury.

“Learning to play baseball at this level is a lot about playing baseball and also just being available,” Hoerner said before Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Rockies. “When you’re not available then the baseball side of it isn’t an option. No regrets on how I’ve been training or going about it, but kind of just take things that have happened and learn from it as best you can.”

Hoerner is slashing .313/.388/.388 with 10 doubles, 14 RBI and 15 walks in 39 games this season.

The Cubs are going to take their time with Hoerner, and while going through baseball activity is a positive sign, he won’t be coming off the IL any time soon. A possible return for Hoerner likely would come toward the end of August or beginning of September.

“He’s moving forward,” manager David Ross said. “His rehab is going well. I don’t think it’s a process where we’re gonna see him soon, but yeah, I mean he’s doing some things. . . . He moved around really nicely yesterday. Ran, did all his lower body work, his sprint work and we’ll see how the rotational stuff goes for him.”

Ross looking to get Contreras rest

Catcher Willson Contreras is a workhorse behind the plate, and in a league that has gone away from teams giving backstops a serious workload, he has taken on the challenge.  

Contreras leads all major-league catchers with 92 games caught, and while Ross has relied on him to be in the lineup, especially when the team’s backup catchers went down with injury, he wants to make sure to give him some rest down the stretch.

“He’ll have tomorrow off,” Ross said. “I wanted to get him three [starts] in a row here. He swung the bat really well yesterday and didn’t have a lot to show for it.

“It’s hard to keep [Robinson Chirinos] and [Willson] out of the lineup when there’s a lefty going. I want to give [Chirinos] a lefty for once. He’s got some good numbers off of them historically.”

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