‘I want to take advantage of this’: Michael Hermosillo making the most of chance with Cubs
PEORIA, Ariz. — Michael Hermosillo felt like he had some unfinished business.
The Ottawa, Ill., native grew up a Cubs fan and got a little taste of playing for his hometown team late last season, endearing himself to the fanbase in the process. But a forearm injury cut his year short and he finished with only 16 games in a Cubs uniform.
Over the winter, the Cubs actually non-tendered Hermosillo on Nov. 30 but then re-signed him to a big league deal on Dec. 1.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was just weird going from being non-tendered to signing back. It is a roller coaster of emotions. All the respect to the teams that showed me interest but there is a love for the Cubs. Just growing up, being in it.
“I just see myself here, at least in this moment right now. It’s one of those things where I was so excited to sign back and take advantage of this opportunity.”
The 27-year-old outfielder performed well with Triple-A Iowa last season and was on track to get a call-up to the majors after the trade deadline but he was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
When he ultimately debuted in mid-August, Hermosillo flashed some impressive range in the outfield and some pop in the batter’s box (3 HRs in 36 at-bats).
He posted a .306/.446/.592 slash line (1.038 OPS) with 10 homers and 29 RBI in 43 Triple-A games prior to the promotion.
Now that he’s back, Hermosillo is doing everything he can to make the Opening Day roster with his hometown team.
“I definitely want to take advantage of this,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I feel like there were spurts last year where I showed what I could do.
“I know getting more reps and just being up here and being more consistent, I think that guy will come out. Excited about what’s in store this year and what I can show.”
Right now, Hermosillo is caught up in a bit of a crowded outfield picture.
The Cubs signed Seiya Suzuki last week and he will project as the everyday right fielder. That pushes Jason Heyward to center and Ian Happ is already a lock for a large share of playing time in left (though he has been slowed in camp by an offseason elbow injury).
Then there’s Clint Frazier, who has hit well this spring and was signed to a big-league deal prior to the lockout.
The final outfield spot could come down to Hermosillo or Rafael Ortega and both players are out of minor league options. Hermosillo could have the advantage there, as he is younger than Ortega (31 in May) and right-handed so he could form a platoon in center field with Heyward.
“Good athlete, probably our better center fielder as far as just metrically measuring out,” David Ross said. “Good jumps, real power. A guy that has hit some lefties in the past, had a really good season last year, got hurt, came up, contributed a little bit.
“Just raw power. Likes to go get it and I think it’s a piece that if it works out that way that we see could fit.”
Hermosillo showed some of that power and speed Saturday against the Padres, lining a ball into the gap and then turning on the speed for a Little League home run:
We love a little league home run! pic.twitter.com/FdF55kPsGr— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 26, 2022
Hermosillo loved the send by Cubs third base coach Willie Harris.
“Oh, I knew he was sending me — 100%,” Hermosillo said. “There was no ifs ands or buts about that. I pretty much had that mindset once I saw it go past the center fielder that I was probably going to be running home.”
He later added another double and felt like Saturday’s game overall was a good representation of the adjustments he’s been trying to make this spring. Hermosillo’s main focus in camp has been on being consistent, particularly against top pitching.
As for the numbers game on the roster, Hermosillo said he doesn’t look at it as a competition with anybody else and instead feels as if he is competing with himself.
“It’s just one of those things where I feel like if I do what I’m supposed to, I’ll find my way on this roster.”