How Andrelton Simmons can impact Cubs in return from injury
It didn’t take long for Andrelton Simmons to make his impact known defensively.
The veteran shortstop was activated off the IL Sunday for the first time all season when Nico Hoerner was placed on the shelf.
Simmons entered as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning Sunday in Arizona and immediately helped turn a game-ended double play to seal the victory.
On Monday in his first start as a Cub, Simmons fielded a hot shot from the second batter of the game — going down to a knee to retire Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes.
That’s exactly what Simmons brings to this Cubs team — a track record of 4 Gold Gloves and 28.0 defensive WAR over his 11-year career (per Baseball Reference).
“He’s one of the better shortstops that has been around for probably the last 10-15 years just defensively,” manager David Ross said. “Has got some hardware. Has a lot of range up the middle. Willing to do whatever he’s asked of him. Good teammate, known him a long time. Good baseball instincts. Baseball IQ is really high. He really helps.”
Simmons signed with the Cubs right after the lockout ended but was slowed in camp with shoulder inflammation. The injury lingered into April and he first began a rehab assignment on May 7 with Triple-A Iowa.
He still doesn’t feel 100% with the shoulder but because Hoerner was playing so well, Simmons felt like he didn’t have to rush back to help the team. The veteran felt like he could take things slow and let his shoulder get as healthy as possible.
But when Hoerner injured his ankle in the series finale in San Diego, the Cubs needed Simmons.
“I was texting with him a couple of times while he was out and he was like, he didn’t feel any pressure to rush back because of how well Nico was playing,” Ross said. “He actually told me that. I know that’s a thing for him.
“He wants to help out the team. He wants to be a piece to help winning and contribute and the fact that he knew he wasn’t completely ready and Nico was playing so well gave him time to say, ‘I need to make sure I’m completely there.'”
The shoulder injury was “frustrating” for Simmons to deal with, simply with how long it lingered. He had to balance the desire to get back quickly with ensuring he could make all the throws from shortstop on a daily basis.
“It was OK but I wanted to feel like I’m good,” he said. “It just didn’t get over the hump, exactly. It keeps getting better and better every day.”
Simmons was initially signed to provide elite defense at shortstop for this Cubs team. The team could then move Hoerner all over the diamond as a super utility player.
When Simmons went down, Hoerner stepped up and held down the shortstop spot, playing well in every facet of the game. He even impressed his teammate.
“Nico was doing really good,” Simmons said. “His jump throws — that’s pretty nice. It’s always nice to be able to make those players in the hole for a shortstop. It’s pretty impressive.”
When Hoerner returns, the 32-year-old Simmons said he would be open to playing second base as well as shortstop. The Cubs could also occasionally play Hoerner at second, where he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2020.
Nick Madrigal — the team’s regular second baseman — is also currently on the IL with a back injury.