It took him only two weeks because of Nico Horner’s right ankle sprain.
Horner initially feared he might miss more time after hitting an umpire in shallow right field in San Diego on May 11. However, he returned well, and suddenly the Chicago Cubs’ depth of field is a force to be reckoned with.
Horner was off the injured list ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. In the same move, catcher Yann Gomes moved to the IL with a left oblique stretch. Wilson Contreras was available off the bench and could return to the lineup for Thursday’s series finale.
Gomes’ injury creates an extended chance for backup PJ Higgins, who resumed Wednesday.
Manager David Ross indicated that Gomes’ oblique strain is on the minor side, which is encouraging for an injury that could be difficult to return to.
“The news we have received is not as bad as we thought,” Ross said.
Horner’s return gives Ross plenty of middle-field options, depending on how he wants to mix and match Horner with Andrelton Simmons, Christopher Morrell, and Jonathan Willer. Nick Madrigal (lower back strain) remains on the IL and goes through a second day of full baseball activities on Wednesday as he continues to progress.
Horner was not in the lineup on Wednesday as the Cubs started Simmons at shortstop and Morrell at second base. Horner and Simmons are both in the lineup, hoping to see Horner at shortstop, despite Simmons not playing anywhere else in the Majors during his 11 seasons.
There’s a reason Ross wants a defensive setup between the two.
Ross explained, “There’s a real advantage from a guy that the young and up-and-coming is getting at least as many reps for us.” “And Simmons’ versatility – I don’t know if there’s really a real position in the infield now. I mean, half the time, (third baseman) Patrick Wisdom (is) at shortstop, right? So I guess those guys Moving it around, you will see it.
When Simmons joined the Cubs after missing the first 32 games on IL, he admitted that his shoulder was not 100% yet. Giving Simmons time at second base can help as he gets stronger with more game reps.
More importantly, the Cubs can find out whether the Horner Brief is a long-term answer.
“Nico is a big league shortstop,” Ross said. “He’s proven he can play big league shortstop consistently already this season. Let’s see what happens at the end of the year and assess there. It’s easy to say that you’ll be in the big leagues in the long run. There may be shortstops, but you also have to do it. You have to prove it.”
Horner’s defensive performances this season made Simmons feel that he didn’t need to back down before his body was ready. He has been highly praised for Horner’s game, especially his backhand jump throw from the hole.
Horner praised four-time Gold Glove winner Simmons.
“He’s someone who’s done it at the highest level,” Horner said on Wednesday. “I mean, some of those statistics that are shining, defensive runs saved in the last decade and things like that, it’s pretty amazing.
“So he’s the kind of guy who not only does it but understands how he does it. He’s always looking forward to the game ahead and I’m definitely excited to have someone to share the field with.”