Bote beats out Hoerner, claims starting job at second base for Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' David Bote, right, will be the starting second baseman when the regular season opens Thursday.

    Chicago Cubs' David Bote, right, will be the starting second baseman when the regular season opens Thursday. Associated Press

  • Nico Hoerner was optioned to Class AAA Iowa on Saturday. Cubs manager David Ross said Hoerner is "the next man in line" if something happens with David Bote.

    Nico Hoerner was optioned to Class AAA Iowa on Saturday. Cubs manager David Ross said Hoerner is "the next man in line" if something happens with David Bote. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/27/2021 7:30 PM

Perpetually upbeat, David Ross admitted Saturday he's been a bit down in the dumps as of late.

Like every other major-league manager in the waning days of spring training, Ross has been informing players set on breaking camp they didn't make the roster.

 

Before the Cubs played a Cactus League game against the Reds late Saturday, infielder Nico Hoerner was the most notable name to get the bad news.

Hoerner was optioned to Class AAA Iowa, as was left-handed relief pitcher Brad Wieck.

The Cubs also assigned right-handed pitchers Shelby Miller, Trevor Megill and Pedro Strop and outfielder Rafael Ortega to minor-league camp. Veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin was released.

"That's what's tough about this job, it just weighs on you," Ross said. "I felt like I haven't been myself for two or three days, just having to deliver some of these messages to people you really like and care about. It stinks."

On the flip side of things, Ross was thrilled to inform David Bote he'll be the Cubs' starting second baseman when the regular season opens Thursday against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

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Ross also let Adbert Alzolay know he's in the starting rotation, likely at No. 5 behind Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies and Trevor Williams.

After going 5-5 with a 4.48 ERA and pitching a no-hitter in 11 starts last season, Alec Mills is moving back to the bullpen.

Hoerner, a Gold Glove finalist last season, is hitting .353/.405/.647 with 1 home run and 5 RBI this spring.

He batted .222/.312/.259 with no homers and 13 RBI in 48 games with the Cubs last season and had 1 hit in his last 16 at-bats. While the service time issue plays into the decision, the Cubs obviously feel Hoerner's bat can use more development.

Before the Class AAA season opens at Iowa on May 4, Hoerner will take his swings at the Cubs' alternate training site in South Bend, Ind.

"As much as we love Nico, and I think Nico is going to be a stud here for a long time, a Gold Glove second baseman, future all star in my opinion, I don't think it's fair for him to come off the bench and have sporadic at-bats," Ross said. "That's not setting him up for success."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bote, who was slashing .316/.381/.684 with 3 homers and 8 RBI heading into Saturday night's game against Cincinnati, is a .240 hitter with 24 HR and 103 RBI over 246 games since breaking in with the Cubs in 2018.

"I think David Bote earned the job," Ross said. "This was a real competition and in my opinion, David won it. We'll see what we've got in David Bote. If anything goes wrong or anybody gets hurt, Nico is the next man in line."

Eric Sogard, who joined the Cubs on a minor-league contract in early March, is on the roster and he'll open the season as Bote's backup at second base.

"This is a little bit less about Nico and more about David Bote," Ross said. "I mean, David Bote's had a great spring. It's an opportunity for David that David has earned, he deserves. It gives him a chance to play every day at second base. A guy that is going into his fourth season in the major leagues and has put up some good numbers and played great defense, he has never really gotten a chance to play every day."

In April of 2019, Bote signed a five-year, $15 million contract extension that includes club options for 2025 and '26.

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