After arduous path back from injury, Michael Hermosillo making an unexpected impact on Cubs
Michael Hermosillo was faced with a tough task.
Rafael Ortega had to leave in the middle of an at-bat after taking a pitch off the finger while trying to bunt.
That meant Hermosillo was forced into the game with an 0-2 count…facing arguably the greatest pitcher on the planet (Jacob deGrom). Oh and to add more pressure to the situation, Hermosillo was coming up with a pair of runners on and nobody out as the Cubs were looking to build on a 1-0 lead.
“Coming off the bench, having to face Jacob deGrom is a tough sell,” David Ross told reporters in New York.
On the first pitch he saw, Hermosillo tapped a bunt in front of home plate and beat it to first base as the throw hit him in the back running down the line. The Cubs eventually scored 2 runs in the inning and in the bottom half of the frame, he ran down a ball in the right-center gap to make a nice catch and keep the Mets at bay.
The Cubs used that big 4th inning to pull off a 4-1 victory over deGrom and the Mets Tuesday night in New York.
It was an unexpected impact from a player who fell off the radar this season.
Hermosillo was a great story last season and this spring as the hometown kid (Ottawa, Ill. native) who was getting a chance to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
But fate had other plans.
After he was called up in mid-August last season, Hermosillo wound up going on the IL in early September with a forearm injury that ended his year.
He earned a spot on the Opening Day roster this spring but only made it to May 7 as a quad injury landed him on the IL.
It was a long, winding road back, totaling four months before Hermosillo rejoined the Cubs earlier this month.
“I’m not gonna lie, the first week or two was pretty rough,” Hermosillo said. “I really take pride in treating my body the right way, trying to stay in the best shape. I was really focused on being ready for 162 games this year.
“There was a week or two there where it was pretty depressing — just my body failing me again.”
Hermosillo was diagnosed with a Grade 2-plus quad tear and was close to needing surgery. He had dealt with it in Spring Training and into the first month of the season but during the Cubs’ doubleheader against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field on May 7, he knew something was really wrong.
His leg was “pretty swollen” in between games but he wanted to try to play through it. He traveled with the team to San Diego and was initially supposed to be in the lineup but it got to the point where he realized he wasn’t doing his teammates any favors by going out in a diminished state.
So he contacted Cubs head trainer P.J. Mainville and scheduled an MRI. Before he could even begin the rehab process, Hermosillo contracted COVID so had to stay home for 10 days.
From there, it was a 12-week process working his way back to form.
“It’s crazy to see how I feel now as opposed to how I felt then,” Hermosillo said. “How I would have to mentally use my leg the right way and things like that. It’s really good to be healthy.”
As he showed Tuesday night in New York, Hermosillo is the Cubs’ best defender in center field. He has hit well in Triple-A throughout his career (.874 OPS in 209 games) but he hasn’t been able to find that same success in the majors.
Hermosillo is still only 27 but the Cubs have a crowded outfield picture — both now and down the road. Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki are holding down the corner spots on an everyday basis while rookies Christopher Morel and Nelson Velázquez can play all three outfield spots. Ortega is now done for the season with a broken left ring finger, Ross announced after Tuesday’s game.
Add in the fact that Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario could be in the outfield mix next year and it would be hard for Hermosillo to carve out a role. But he’s just trying to take things day by day over the final weeks of the season.
“I genuinely feel like I can play up here and I just feel like I need a semi-regular chance,” Hermosillo said. “We have a lot of guys up here so it’s hard to find a spot. I don’t want to read too much into the next month. I just want to take it at-bat to at-bat and have fun.
“This is a great group of guys so enjoying every moment, not putting too much pressure on myself. Whenever I do get my spot, make the most of it. I think the biggest thing is showing I’m healthy and finish the year strong.”