Ross elevates red-hot Hoerner to Cubs' leadoff spot

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Nico Hoerner runs to first base after hitting a double during the first inning of a spring baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Mesa, Ariz., Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

    Chicago Cubs' Nico Hoerner runs to first base after hitting a double during the first inning of a spring baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Mesa, Ariz., Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/26/2021 5:20 PM

Nico Hoerner's numbers since rejoining the Cubs certainly screamed to move higher in the order. Manager David Ross made it a reality Monday, elevating Hoerner to the leadoff spot against Atlanta.

Hoerner has gone 4-for-9 at the plate with 3 doubles and 4 walks since coming back from the South Bend alternate site. His on-base percentage was .615 heading into Monday's action.

 

Ian Happ, who has led off most of this season, moved down to the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Happ is one of the better Cubs hitters when it comes to hitting the ball hard -- average exit velocity of 90.6 according to BaseballSavant -- but he's batting just .154.

"Just mixing it up a hair at the top," Ross said before the game. "Nothing earth-shattering other than Nico's playing really good baseball right now, having some of our better at-bats. So let's get him at the top and see what happens."

Likewise, Ross is hoping moving Happ to a new spot might help him get going.

"He's just a little off right now," Ross said. "The at-bats are there, still a calm approach, taking his walks. I want to take some stuff off his plate. There's some method to the madness a little bit from me, we'll see if it plays out."

Hoerner came in this spring looking stronger and more confident at the plate. But whether it was performance or competition or service time issues, he was sent to South Bend before the regular season began. Ross suggested the angle that bringing a guy back to the big leagues with something to prove isn't a bad thing.

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"He's always been a great baseball-type guy," Ross said of Hoerner. "We talk about the 'baseball guys.' He's one of those guys that always talks the game. I see more of a business side. Maybe that's because I ticked him off and sent him down from spring.

"But I see a guy that's here to prove -- whether it's me or the organization or whoever -- that he's an every day big-league player. I love to be these guys' friend, but there's also parts where a little bit of chip on guys' shoulders, so far in my young managerial career, have paid off to have guys come back and do really well to prove me wrong or whatever."

Hoerner started at shortstop, with Eric Sogard at second base. Javy Baez was given the night off after tweaking his hamstring late in Sunday's loss to Milwaukee.

"Whenever I see hesitation like that from a player, I think it's just safer to give him a day and reassess tomorrow," Ross said. "He went through some testing out on the field a little bit and still felt the tightness."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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