Veteran outfielder Jason Heyward and young middle infielder Nico Hoerner were two of the few Cubs who stayed in Chicago over the offseason.
“So, there was some of that,” Hoerner said when asked how he and Heyward became so close. “But it happened just because he’s an incredibly generous person.”
Heyward’s teammates, past and present, have stories of his generosity, warmth and leadership. So, when president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said in his media availability Monday that he didn’t expect Heyward would return from the injured list (right knee inflammation) this season and revealed plans to part ways this winter, Heyward’s teammates had kind words to share.
“One of my favorite things about Jason is just how consistent he is on a daily basis,” manager David Ross said. “He walks through the door, and whether he’s 5-for his last five or 0-for his last five, he’s the same person. What we strive for … is being able to bring something to the table on a daily basis.
“Hitting’s hard. Hitting’s hard for everybody. But Jason will help you win a game without getting hits, whether it’s his defense, his base running, a conversation he may have in the dugout, something he sees from other hitters, where he positions himself and reads swings in the outfield. How he impacts your team in a winning way is daily.”
Ross has known Heyward since his 2010 rookie season, when Heyward was the promising hometown kid, and Ross was a grizzled veteran with the Braves.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cubs rookie Nelson Velázquez only began playing with Heyward this season, which has included two IL stints and waning playing time for Heyward. But Velázquez raves about Heyward’s hitting and fielding advice.
“He’s a really nice guy, clubhouse guy,” Velázquez said, adding that he recently picked Heyward’s brain on his two-strike approach. “I love him.”
Hoerner focussed on Heyward’s impact on his life beyond baseball and a friendship that will outlast Heyward’s Cubs tenure.
“Just incredibly grateful that I lucked into a situation where I got to know him,” Hoerner said. “And what he was for me was a lot more than just a veteran in the clubhouse. Pretty much gave me guidelines on what it means to play at this level and mix that with a life away from the field.”
Will Hendricks return this season?
Kyle Hendricks’ follow-up MRI on his strained right shoulder showed lingering inflammation, Ross said Tuesday. The veteran pitcher still hasn’t started a throwing program, a little over a month after he landed on the 15-day injured list. The Cubs will reassess in about a week.
That timeline, with Hendricks starting a throwing program in mid-August at the earliest, calls into question the likelihood of him returning this season.
“My main thing is to get him back on the bump, throwing bullpens and seeing how he feels,” Ross said. “Let’s get him healthy. So, I don’t think getting him back in games is a top priority for everyone. But if he is able to get to that space, I think that’s a win for everyone.”
Miley rehab stint continues
On Wednesday, veteran lefty Wade Miley (strained left shoulder) is scheduled to make his third rehab start in the past few weeks, and his second with Triple-A Iowa. Miley is expected to need another rehab outing after Wednesday before returning from the 15-day IL. But the Cubs will evaluate his recovery from his next start before settling on a concrete plan.