Cubs recall Christopher Morel from Triple-A Iowa, option Nelson Velazquez

Nico Hoerner left the game Monday with hamstring tightness as the Cubs dropped the series opener to the Cardinals.

SHARE Cubs recall Christopher Morel from Triple-A Iowa, option Nelson Velazquez
Cubs utility player Christopher Morel posted a 1.156 OPS in Triple-A to begin the season.

Cubs utility player Christopher Morel posted a 1.156 OPS in Triple-A to begin the season.

Abbie Parr/AP

Utility player Christopher Morel didn’t believe the news at first that he was going back up to the big leagues.

Morel was in the airport in Columbus, Ohio, with Triple-A Iowa, he said, when manager Marty Pevey told him he was joining the Cubs in Chicago. Morel chuckled, but Pevey wasn’t joking.

Before the Cubs’ 3-1 loss Monday to the Cardinals, the Cubs finally recalled Morel, who posted a 1.156 OPS in Triple-A to start the season. In a corresponding move, they optioned outfielder Nelson Velazquez to Triple-A.

‘‘The main thing we talked about was just getting him a little bit more seasoning and at-bats consistently,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I don’t think those were available up here. We’re still going to find spots to try to move him in. The guy’s set the world on fire down there. He’s earned this, coming up.’’

Morel’s production in Triple-A was impossible to ignore. He already had hit 11 home runs. He was taking walks, too, which helped him record a .425 on-base percentage.

‘‘I was trying to trust myself,’’ Morel said. ‘‘Tried to enjoy the game and trying to make the adjustments the team wants me to make and just believe I can do it.’’

He said when he was sent down out of spring training, one of the things the Cubs wanted him to work on was cutting down on his strikeouts.

‘‘Just more mentality,’’ he said. ‘‘Trying to control what you can control, trying to be patient, trying to [slow down] the game.’’

Ross compared Morel’s push for big-league playing time to what Velazquez did earlier in the season. With limited at-bats, Velazquez’s bat cooled off recently. He will return to Triple-A to get more consistent plate appearances and get into rhythm again.

‘‘Hopefully, that’s a tandem we can rely on and mix both those guys in at times, depending on who’s here and how things go,’’ Ross said.

Hoerner exits with injury

Second baseman Nico Hoerner left in the fifth inning with what the Cubs called ‘‘tightness’’ in his left hamstring after going from first to third on Dansby Swanson’s RBI double.

Hoerner grimaced after rounding second and pulled up to jog into third. Nick Madrigal replaced him.

‘‘Just trying to be cautious,’’ Ross said, ‘‘and we’ll see how he is in the morning.’’

Hoerner will undergo imaging Tuesday as part of that evaluation, Ross said.

Hoerner has put together a strong start to the season, batting .303 as the Cubs’ leadoff man and playing in all 35 of their games. He entered play Monday leading the majors in plate appearances (161).

Cubs drop series opener

The Cubs have benefitted from the Cardinals, the preseason favorites in the National League Central, struggling early in the season. But in the first game of the series, they failed to take advantage.

The loss dropped the Cubs below .500 again at 17-18. The Cardinals improved to 12-24.

The Latest
Details about the city of Chicago’s deal with the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Chicago Host Committee were obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
Iman Bambooyani admitted jet-setting across the country with four women and paying them thousands of dollars for sex. He’s now agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
The album finds the group paying fond respect to the history of the blues, featuring covers of songs by Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Walter Jacobs, Bobby Charles and Preston Foster.
A record 2.25 million viewers tuned into CBS Sports’ broadcast of the Sky’s 91-83 loss to Indiana.