Outfielder Seiya Suzuki activated from IL, hits one of Cubs’ five homers in season debut

In a corresponding move, the Cubs optioned utility player Miles Mastrobuoni to Triple-A Iowa.

SHARE Outfielder Seiya Suzuki activated from IL, hits one of Cubs’ five homers in season debut

John antonoff

LOS ANGELES — Even after the Cubs’ homestand this week, the origin of the sheriff’s hat remained a mystery. Catcher Yan Gomes said he found it lying around the clubhouse.

‘‘Somebody’s missing a hat,’’ he quipped.

Gomes put the hat on second baseman Nico Hoerner’s head for his interview after he hit a walk-off RBI single Monday against the Mariners. Hoerner then passed it to outfielder Nelson Velazquez in the clubhouse after his go-ahead grand slam Tuesday.

As a media scrum formed around Velazquez, he turned to right-hander and locker mate Adbert Alzolay to ask whether he should put the hat back on for his interview. Alzolay thought it was a no-brainer.

‘‘I told him, ‘You need to go to bed with that on your head,’ ’’ Alzolay said.

Those were the kind of good vibes circulating in the Cubs’ clubhouse this week. And good vibes turned into good news Friday when the Cubs reinstated outfielder Seiya Suzuki (strained left oblique) from the 10-day injured list. He made his 2023 debut by going 1-for-5 with one of the Cubs’ five home runs in an 8-2 victory against the Dodgers. In a corresponding move, the Cubs optioned utility player Miles Mastrobuoni to Triple-A Iowa.

‘‘It was my goal to get back here as soon as possible,’’ Suzuki said through an interpreter before the game. ‘‘And now I’m here. So I’m very excited for what’s ahead.’’

The Cubs are in the midst of a stretch (starting with the series against the Mariners) in which they face 2022 playoff teams in four of five series. They opened a three-game set Friday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, then play them again in a four-game set next week at Wrigley Field. Then the Padres come to Wrigley.

A three-game series against the Athletics in Oakland, California, is the only thing breaking up the block of playoff teams.

‘‘You’re always trying to judge yourself against the better teams,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘The good teams I’ve been on, it’s always fun to have good teams come in, and you get that test. But you can also fall into that lull of not bringing it during the times you play teams that you don’t think are up to your caliber. So trying to be a consistent team on a nightly basis is probably our biggest goal.”

The next couple of weeks will be a useful barometer for a group full of offseason additions who have raved about how well things have jelled early on.

‘‘We’ve got great guys all around,’’ third baseman Patrick Wisdom said. ‘‘So that’s super-fun and makes coming to the park every day just a blast. It even started in spring. . . . 

‘‘You look to your left, look to your right, and there’s always people conversing, having a good time, laughing and getting to know one another, interested in each other’s lives, which is impactful.’’

The Cubs’ style of play is also team-driven. They are built on defense and pitching. And when the offense has put up big numbers, it generally has been by stringing together base hits. It’s a small sample size, but even with favorable conditions this week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs had hit only 10 home runs before their explosion Friday.

Suzuki’s return should help add power to the lineup. He took over the cleanup spot, batting behind Hoerner, shortstop Dansby Swanson and outfielder Ian Happ, who went 4-for-4 with a homer and two doubles.

‘‘Getting off to a good start is, for sure, important for any [team],’’ Gomes, who hit two homers, said this week. ‘‘But at the same time, I feel like it’s important to understand what we’re building here.’’

Then, without meaning to, the man who started the sheriff’s-hat celebration invoked a saying about hats.

‘‘We’ve got way too good of a team, way too good of a culture, way too good of a fan base that was way behind us every single game, to hang our hats,’’ he said. ‘‘And I feel like we’ve built a team that, from top to bottom, can really do this.’’

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