Nick Madrigal reaping the benefits of being fully healthy

He hit his first home run as a Cub on Friday.

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Nick Madrigal

Chicago Cubs’ Nick Madrigal scores on Nico Hoerner’s two-run single off Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Cal Quantrill, left, during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, June 30, 2023, in Chicago.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Loading on the back leg is important for any hitter. Cubs infielder Nick Madrigal lifts his left leg high at the start of his swing, which sets him up to feel it acutely if his right leg is still recovering from something as significant as the 2021 hamstring tear that effectively ended his White Sox tenure.

After surgery and a long rehab process, a difficult first season on the North Side saw him hit a paltry .249/.305/.282 in 2022. But Madrigal is starting to see the benefits of being another year removed from that setback and fully healthy.

“My body feels great right now,” Madrigal said after hitting his first home run as a Cub on Friday. “Things are starting to sync up a bit. I feel aggressive in the box. I’m on the attack again. I would agree that I haven’t felt this way in a little bit.”

Power has never been Madrigal’s game, but he did have two homers in 54 games for the Sox in 2021. An ill-advised bunt — Madrigal admitted that he “messed up” — took center stage Thursday night, but that 0-for-4 performance was the only time Madrigal has gone hitless in his last nine games. The fourth overall pick of the 2018 draft is hitting .340/.426/.472 in 17 games since getting recalled from Triple-A Iowa.

“We’ve been getting on him lately about hitting a homer,” left-hander Justin Steele said. “I’ve been telling him the party’s out front [of the plate], and he’s been getting the [bat] head out a little bit here lately, and he’s starting the party out there.”

Cody Two Strikes

Center fielder Cody Bellinger was homerless with two extra-base hits since returning from a left knee bruise June 15. But manager David Ross praised him Friday for two two-strike singles; both contributed to run-scoring innings in a 10-1 romp against the Guardians.

While the power hasn’t come back yet, the singles extended a six-game hitting streak for Bellinger, and Ross sees his two-strike approach as a possible first step toward reclaiming his timing after missing a month.

“There hasn’t been a lot of slug with him getting going, so I still think his timing is not quite there yet,” Ross said.

“Right now, I think he’s trying to get more into his plan [at the plate]. You can see the at-bats get a little bit longer; you can see the two-strike hits coming. He’s starting to settle in.”

On the mend

Outfielder Seiya Suzuki returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after a three-game absence with neck stiffness.

† Left-hander Brandon Hughes reported to the team facility in Arizona to begin his rehab from left knee inflammation. Hughes is on the 60-day injured list.

† Third baseman Patrick Wisdom is set to play his third straight rehab game at Iowa.

Wisdom has been on the IL since June 17 with a sprained right wrist.

Halfway home

The Cubs played their 81st game of the season Saturday. At 38-42 going in, they will be under .500 at the halfway point but entered the weekend with the fifth-best run differential in the National League.

“I love this team,” Ross said. “We’ve got a great starting staff. Our bullpen has kind of worked its way out. We’re not going to slug you to death; I don’t think we’re that type of team. We’re going to have to get key hits and take our walks.”

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