Cubs notebook: P.J. Higgins shows infield versatility, Nick Madrigal to 10-day IL

Cubs manager David Ross described Madrigal’s groin strain as “pretty significant.”

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Cubs’ P.J. Higgins hits a single against the Yankees. The Cubs initially called him up for catching depth but now are taking advantage of his infield versatility.

Cubs’ P.J. Higgins hits a single against the Yankees. The Cubs initially called him up for catching depth but now are taking advantage of his infield versatility.

Mary Altaffer/AP

On another team, rookie P.J. Higgins would be among the least experienced. But with the Cubs, who’ve had eight major-league debuts already this season, his nine big-league games last year go a long way.

“Going back to my early career, every time I repeated [a level], I always did better,” Higgins said.

“You feel more confident, a little more experience. You’re used to everything that goes along with it.”

He viewed returning to the majors similarly. And that mindset has worked well for him. Entering Wednesday, Higgins was batting .317 with two home runs.

This season, the Cubs originally brought up Higgins as a backup catcher when Willson Contreras missed three games with a tight hamstring, then Yan Gomes went on the injured list with a strained oblique. But when Gomes returned last week, the Cubs held on to Higgins, largely for infield depth. Higgins started at third base Wednesday against the Padres.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I kind of just went into it with an open mindset, and whatever happened, happened, and I was just gonna go out and do my thing and just play the game.”

Higgins’ time in the majors last year was cut short by injury, and he underwent season-ending elbow surgery.

“I didn’t know what to [make] of it because it was my first serious injury that just shut me down,” he said. “So it was kind of like where you’re in that high moment [making it to the majors], and you’re kind of like, ‘Now I really don’t have much to do, other than get surgery and rehab.’ ’’

In November, the Cubs re-signed Higgins to a minor-league contract. He joined the team in spring training as a non-roster invitee and was called up in late May.

When a packed schedule and injuries forced the Cubs to call up rookie starting pitchers, Higgins made a specialty out of catching major-league debuts. He caught Matt Swarmer and Caleb Kilian in their first big-league starts.

He had familiarity with both. Higgins had caught Swarmer for years in the minors, and he got to know Kilian in spring training. Plus, Higgins vividly remembered his own major-league debut last year and the veterans he leaned on.

His goal was to relieve the pressure on Swarmer and Kilian. He told them: “This is your day. I’m going to give you the best opportunity back there, trying to call the best game I can. . . . Just go [out] there and just trust me.”

Madrigal to the 10-day IL

The Cubs put Nick Madrigal on the 10-day injured list with a strained left groin. The move, retroactive to Sunday, allowed them to recall Kilian to start Wednesday.

The injury had sidelined Madrigal since the 12th inning of the Cubs’ extra-inning loss to the Yankees last Friday. Manager David Ross called the injury “pretty significant.”

“And with him, we’ll probably be a little extra-cautious coming off what he did last year,” Ross added, alluding to Madrigal’s 2021 season-ending surgery to repair a hamstring tear. “We’ve got to find a way to keep him on the field pretty regularly and be able to let him continue to develop into a big-league starter, every-day player.”

Madrigal has played 31 games this season. He spent almost three weeks on the injured list in May with a strained lower back.

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