Mar 9, 2021

Nico Hoerner's hot start has looked promising

Nico Hoerner's hot start has looked promising

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Good morning, frents!

So the one-year anniversary of Chicago's last professional sporting event with fans — a Blackhawks win over the Sharks —is on Thursday.

To mark the occasion, I'm putting together a post on the best games we missed out on over the 365 days and I want your help. Reply to this email with the one game you wish you'd been able to attend and why.

I'll include your submissions along mine as we get ready to return to our ballparks in a few weeks (if we can get tickets, of course).

Monday's results
Cubs 9, Rangers 0
Dodgers 8, Sox 0

Today's schedule
Hawks at Dallas (7:30,
A’s at Cubs (2, Marquee)
Padres vs. Sox (2, MLB.TV)

Nico Hoerner's arousing start

By David Brown

Let me ask you something. And be honest.

Are you Hoerner, baby?

You should be feeling that way about Nico Hoerner after he collected two more spring-training hits Monday afternoon, including an RBI single, in the Cubs 9-0 blanking of the Rangers in Cactus League action.

Hoerner increased his spring batting average to .692 and his OPS to a Ulysses S. Grant is president-like 1.868 over 13 at-bats. The numbers are too nice to ignore, even if they're only for six games and unsustainable. The good thing for Hoerner is, he doesn't have to sustain .692 anything, or even give a book report on the Grant administration, to be the team's starting second baseman in 2021.

Let's just hope Cubs brass realizes it.

The coaching staff seems to get it. Bench coach Andy Green said Hoerner, who came in having added weight and strength, has been dazzling since camp opened.

"He does everything right," Green said on the Marquee TV broadcast. "He's a lot like Ian Happ, he's a guy who does things right all the time, that you can really count on and believe in."

Hoerner's undetermined "position" with the Cubs is reminiscent of Happ, who began as a second baseman when he came up in 2017, but played all over the diamond as the Cubs tried to accommodate other players (and find a permanent home for Happ). Four years later, Happ is the everyday center fielder. The Cubs even had a plan for Hoerner to back up Happ in center field this season when he wasn't playing the infield. It still could happen.

Despite the Cubs making a contingency plan for Hoerner to live a nomadic existence, he's performing so far like someone you put at one position and leave there.

"Nico is lifting baseballs more consistently at the plate," Green said. "And it's Gold Glove defense at second."

Coming into the competition at Sloan Park, Hoerner was among a group vying for the second base job, or a part of the job in some capacity in a multiplayer, multi-positional platoon. Hoerner, who played shortstop against the Rangers, also brings experience at other positions including second. His competition in camp includes David Bote and Ildemaro Vargas, and the Cubs even added longtime front-office crush Eric Sogard to the mix in a free-agent deal over the weekend. Jeepers, guys, should we have Mickey Morandini and Eric Young standing by too, just in case? Hoerner gets no slack for a being a Cubs first-round pick in 2018.

The Cubs front office obviously doesn't trust Hoerner to start at second base, which is prudent because he's unproven, but do they even believe in him a little? It's funny they're taking so many precautions at second, considering the team traded away ace right-hander Yu Darvish for next-to-nothing to shed his salary when the team is obviously in a great spot to win the meek NL Central.

Why doesn't Hoerner do it for them? The Cubs executive branch's lack of conviction in Hoerner might be the result of his lousy results in 2020, when he batted .222 with a .259 slugging percentage in 126 plate appearances. Yikes, that is bad. Of course, Hoerner's line is probably one you can throw out because of the pandemic. It's a small sample in the weirdest time ever. Hoerner's career slash of .297/.365/.427 in 89 minor-league games, plus his rookie Cubs slash of .282/.305/.436 in 20 games in 2019, is probably more like what we will get.

If they do, the Cubs will have second base covered like few times before.

Sox blanked for second straight day

Spring is the time to get all the kinks worked out, but the Sox sure are taking their time getting loose. The lineup went 12 up, 12 down against three innings of Julio Urias and one of David Price. A double by Andrew Vaughn was one of only three hits on the day in an 8-0 loss to the Dodgers.

The pitching staff, meanwhile, was lit up by the Dodgers, though none of the pitchers probably figures to make the opening day roster. (Today's scheduled slate is a good reason to tune in — Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and Liam Hendriks are set to face the Padres.)

Monday's best news: Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert survived their first outfield collision of the year.

Northwestern women ready for March

We ran down the local men's teams still alive in March yesterday, here's how the women's squads are shaping up.

  • Northwestern's squad is the best of the bunch. The Wildcats went 11-7 in the Big Ten and own the fifth seed in this week's conference tournament. ESPN's bracketologist currently has them as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament.
  • The Illini women did not, uh, have the season that the men did. The team went 2-16 in conference play and will face 13th-seeded Wisconsin in today's play-in game for the right to face Northwestern on Wednesday. (As a Badger alum, I have to ask this question: How do two schools with strong men's programs perform that poorly on the women's side?)
  • The DePaul women lost their first game to Villanova at the Big East tourney last weekend, but are currently projected as one of the last four in for the women's tournament.
  • Loyola's women went 8-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference and own the sixth seed in this weekend's conference tournament. They'll play Illinois State on Friday night.
  1. Dak Prescott's new contract with the Cowboys elevates Allen Robinson to the top of many best available free agent lists. The Athletic
  2. Here for all the Patrick Kane playing peewee hockey stories that Mark Lazerus can give me. The Athletic
  3. Where the Bulls stand in the national power rankings at the halfway mark of the season. Bleacher Nation
  4. Annie Costabile talks with Sarah Spain and Colleen Mares about the Red Stars' new ownership group.  Equal Play
  5. Missed this a few days ago, but loved it: Chris Jones' ode to a Lakeview dentist who turned into one of Chicago's best bartenders. Tribune
David Brown
Longtime Chicago guy. A professional writer and editor since 1998. Member of Baseball Writers Association of America since 2013.

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