Cubs’ Nick Madrigal activated, picks up where he left off before IL stint

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

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The Cubs activated third baseman Nick Madrigal from the 10-day IL on Saturday.

The Cubs activated third baseman Nick Madrigal from the 10-day IL on Saturday.

AP Photos

ST. LOUIS — Third baseman Nick Madrigal hoped to pick up where he left off at the plate before straining his hamstring.

“We’ll find out tonight,” he said before the Cubs’ rain-delayed 5-1 victory Saturday against the Cardinals, the team’s eighth consecutive win.

Madrigal returned from the injured list to join the Cubs on a hot streak as the trade deadline approaches. He contributed immediately, going 2-for-4 and locking down third base. He said he’d been watching as much as he could during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa.

“It’s definitely a great time to be in a Cubs uniform, for the fan base, for the players in this clubhouse,” he said. “And I don’t think many guys are surprised by the way we’re playing. We’ve always known we’ve had this in us. It’s just that things are starting to click right now on both sides of the ball. And I’m excited to be back in there with those guys.”

Madrigal originally was targeting the series earlier this week against his former team, the White Sox, to return. But he played his first two rehab games on consecutive days and was scratched from his third with what the Cubs called general lower-body fatigue.

“It wasn’t anything too big; it was more just being smart about it,” Madrigal said. “I played two games back-to-back, and it was really hot down there. And my body was just tired from a couple of games of playing. I’ve been in those situations before and forced it a little bit. So I was trying to be smart about it and take the day, and I was happy I did. The very next day, I felt way better and just kept progressing.”

His strained right hamstring was the same one he had surgically repaired in 2021. He pushed through discomfort last year and was limited by a series of injuries he suspected stemmed from his recovering hamstring.

This time, he wasn’t going to push it.

“I just wanted to make sure my body was ready,” he said. “I didn’t want to come [back] where I felt just OK. In my mind, I was preparing to be in there every single day.”

After his fifth rehab game with Iowa, Madrigal met the Cubs in St. Louis. His evaluations went well, and the Cubs activated him Saturday. In a corresponding move, they optioned infielder Miles Mastrobuoni, who was hitting .324 this month, to Triple-A.

Madrigal had left a strong impression before the injury. In his last major-league stint with the Cubs, he hit .328 over about a month. But it’s impossible to predict exactly how a hitter will respond after almost four weeks on the injured list.

He didn’t waste time answering that question. In his first at-bat, he grounded out to third base. But in his second, he hit a ground ball down the line for a double. As he rounded first at full speed, it was clear that he was confident in the health of his hamstring. Madrigal then singled in the seventh and scored on Mike Tauchman’s double, giving the Cubs a 5-1 lead.

“Just looks healthier all the way around,” manager David Ross said of this season compared to last. “I think he’s able to play a little more freely. He’s not guarded, running the bases, getting the barrel of the bat out in front, more power has shown up this year than last year, just getting his rhythm back as a whole. Just looks much more like the version I think we thought we were getting when we got him from the White Sox.”

His most impressive contribution, however, came on defense. In the fourth inning, Madrigal ranged to his left and made a diving stop across the third-base line. He popped up and launched an on-target throw across the diamond to get Willson Contreras at first.

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