Cubs' Hoerner surprised at demotion, but tried to stay positive
Maybe a majority of Cubs fans figured Nico Hoerner earned the second-base job in the spring and were surprised to see him sent to the South Bend alternate site.
Hoerner was in the same boat. After making his season debut with the Cubs on Thursday, Hoerner talked about how he dealt with the demotion before Saturday's game.
"I was really surprised, but I was proud of the work I put in in the offseason and how I showed myself in spring training and so I had no regrets on my own end," he said. "I think that makes hard news a lot easier to handle, when you feel like you've controlled what you can. Obviously not what I wanted to hear but I was proud of the work I've done and my game's in a great place."
Hoerner hit .364 in the spring, but since he didn't spend much time in the minor leagues before playing for the Cubs in 2019 and '20, he still had options left and was in that strange spot where service time can control when he reaches free-agency down the road.
"Yeah, I think it's a bigger picture in anything in baseball," Hoerner said. "The Cubs, since I've been drafted have really done nothing but give me the benefit of the doubt as a player, from getting called up in a situation that no one expected it or even before that when I went to the fall league when that wasn't something that seemed like it was going to happen.
"So there's things that go your way and don't go your way and I've had a lot out of my control go my way as a player, just in the couple years since I've been drafted. So there's a lot of option rules I still don't fully understand, so controlling what I can on the field and enjoying where I'm at is kind of where my head's at right now."
Hoerner said the best part of being back with the Cubs is returning to the friendships he built in the clubhouse the past two years. Anthony Rizzo had some nice things to say about Hoerner on Friday.
"He works hard," Rizzo said. "He has a real good feel for the right questions to ask. He's so receptive with everything and wants to learn. It's really, really easy to root for Nico Hoerner. When I knew he was getting called up, sent him a nice text. Just happy he's back and hopefully he's here to stay."
And this was an odd situation because Hoerner isn't a young rookie who's not ready yet. He played in 68 games for the Cubs in 2019 and '20. He spent all of last season with the big-league team, then had to leave.
"I think one of the most challenging parts of being in South Bend is these are really close relationships," Hoerner said. "A lot of people that make playing baseball incredibly fun from the training staff to the coaches and especially the players. Being separate during the season was something that felt really strange and makes being back here that much more rewarding and I definitely don't take that for granted because that's what makes playing so much fun."
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