With his season over, Nico Hoerner ready to build towards 2022
Nico Hoerner refused to look at the negatives.
After what he’s been through this season, it’d be easy to do so.
He started the season by not breaking camp with the big-league roster and when he did get called up, he was hit by the injury bug, being placed on the injured list three separate times this year.
“Obviously, you have a vision going into every season of this perfect thing and playoffs and personal success and all that and that’s what you train for, and you give yourself the best chance for,” Hoerner said. “But you know that every single season doesn’t go like that and it’s not just like a linear process in a career and in a season or anything like that.”
Resiliency is one of the big things Hoerner learned this season. He always had the desire to return from each injury and to not be down on himself. With his latest injury, it would have been easy to call it a year.
On July 29, he was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. When he tried to return on a rehab assignment in late August, he left his first game early when he felt the injury pop back up. By mid-September, he went on a rehab assignment to Triple-A, determined to return before the season ended. He did when he was activated on September 19 and that was a personal win for him.
“I was glad that I was able to get back on the field and do some stuff and play a little bit of shortstop,” Hoerner said. “That felt good to do, for sure, and now the focus is on what I do this offseason and how that sets me up and sets the team up for next year.”
That starts now for Hoerner. He’ll spend the next few weeks figuring out his exact offseason plans, including the possibility of playing winter ball to have some more at-bats under his belt. He had just 149 at-bats this season but posted a .302 batting average and a .751 OPS.
That doesn’t mean he’s totally gonna change his offseason plans. Last year, he added more muscle to his frame.
“I was all in on everything I did this offseason in the weight room,” Hoerner said. “It wasn’t anything dramatically different than what I had done in the past, but I don’t think it’s as much of anything I did wrong, but maybe things I can add or supplement with it and it’s just finding a balance that works for me.”
When he returns next year, he’ll be one of the few players that has been around the championship core that won the 2016 World Series.
“Obviously amazing that I was called up when I was, but just to have a sense of what was here before me, right — not that I was here for everything Joe Maddon brought to this organization — but just a sense of the culture of what was here before,” Hoerner said. “There’s a lot from the players and staff and culture left over that is really valuable and I’ve learned a lot from.”
Part of that culture is a team-first mentality. That’s what he’s striving to bring in 2022. He played shortstop when he was first called up in 2019 and then again when he returned to the team in September.
But he’s played all across the diamond in his short big-league career. He’s played at second, shortstop, third, left field and center field. Hoerner hopes to lockdown the shortstop position next year, but he’ll play wherever the Cubs feel he can help them best, especially if there’s moves made in the offseason.
“I really believe in my ability to play shortstop and I’m gonna prepare to play there at an everyday level if that’s the opportunity and if it’s somewhere else, then I’ll do that,” Hoerner said. “The chance to play in the middle of the field every day for the Chicago Cubs is pretty awesome, regardless of where it is.”
Hoerner will use 2021 to help guide him next season, too — that means learning from the negatives and building on the positives.
“Definitely grateful for this year and a lot of things that I’ll take away from that’ll serve me for a long time,” Hoerner said.