Nico Hoerner is well aware that he’s in one of the Cubs’ few position battles this spring training.
“That's how he's going about his business,” Cubs manager David Ross said this week. “I've seen nothing but this kid coming in here trying to try to win a job, as he should.”
Hoerner tacked on three hits to his running total in the Cubs’ 7-0 win Thursday against the Dodgers. In two spring games, Hoerner is 5-for-6 at the plate with two doubles. The Cubs asked for offense from the 2020 Gold Glove finalist, and so far, that’s exactly what Hoerner has given them.
The club’s bullpen is in flux. The back end of the starting pitching rotation is still up in the air. But when it comes to the field, most of those starting roles are set.
Except second base.
The Cubs opened camp with three options: Hoerner and utility infielders David Bote and Ildemaro Vargas. This week, the Cubs agreed to a minor-league deal with Eric Sogard (pending a physical), adding a left-handed bat to the mix.
The Cubs could use a by-committee approach at second base. But Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said he’d rather see someone “force their name in the lineup every day.”
Turning last year’s weakness into a spring strength is a good start for Hoerner. The 23-year-old posted a .222 batting average in the shortened season, but he’s leading the Cubs in hits so far this spring.
After what Ross called “two of the hardest hits he’s had in a year’s time” in Hoerner’s first spring game, the second baseman kept his hot streak alive Thursday.
Hitting second in the batting order, Hoerner started his night off with a line-drive single to right field. He scored later that inning by stealing third and heading home on the catcher's throwing error.
Hoerner pulled a double to left field in his next at-bat and beat out a ground-ball single in his third and final trip to the plate.
“He’s been a pest the last year or two as a hitter on the other side,” said new Cubs pitcher Trevor Williams, who watched Hoerner hit .286 with two home runs against the Pirates, “and now I’m glad we’re on the same team. And I’m loving the way that he’s played the last few days.”
Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story.