Second baseman Nico Hoerner was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday. Infielder Eric Sogard will be part of the Cubs’ bench this season, per manager David Ross.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – David Ross made it clear at the beginning of spring training that the Cubs’ second-base job would have to be earned.
The performance of the players battling for the spot this spring showed that message was received and while each candidate landed haymaker’s during camp, only one would be able to be the team’s starting second baseman.
It was an uphill battle for Bote after Nico Hoerner’ hot start to the spring. It appeared Hoerner was the frontrunner for the job, and with the team signing infielder Eric Sogard early in camp, there were a lot of at-bats to go around.
“You let the play do the talking,” David Bote said earlier this spring. “Whoever’s coming out and doing it is going to get that [job]. I have confidence in myself as much as they have confidence in themselves. You just go out there and you play your best and you don’t worry about anything you can’t control.’’
Bote’s torrid stretch and his play throughout camp showed that he was out to win the job. The 27-year-old second baseman is slashing .316/.381/.684 with three home runs in 16 games this spring. His performance proved to be enough to win the Cubs’ starting second-base job.
“I think it’s an opportunity that David has earned and he deserves,” Ross said. “I think it’s a chance to play every day at second base for a guy that is going into his fourth season in the Major Leagues and has put up some good numbers and played great defense and has never really got a chance to play every day. If this is a real competition, in my opinion, David won it.
“It’s David Bote’s turn. I think David had been hearing the message a long time that it’s someone else’s turn. So now David gets an opportunity.”
With the Cubs making their decision at second base, Hoerner was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday. Hoerner is still in the midst of a great spring himself, slashing .361/.400/.639 with three doubles, two triples and a homer in 14 games.
“This is a little bit less about Nico and more about David Bote. … [Nico’s] an amazing person, but it hurts. It hurts when you want to be on the team and it sucks not to make the team when you put in all the work and you feel like you’re in a really good place. It’s a [expletive] terrible feeling. I know it is, but he handled it like the professional he is.”
The 23-year-old second baseman made a strong case to win the job during camp, but with his non-traditional development path and lack of Minor League at-bats, the decision to start Hoerner at the alternate site/ Triple-A Iowa does make sense.
Hoerner clearly made improvements as his numbers this spring showed, but he struggled in limited playing time last season, hitting just .222 with a .578 OPS in 48 games. While the glove is Major-League ready, getting him consistent at-bats played a big part in the team’s decision.
“We love Nico and I think Nico is going to be a stud here for a long time,” the Cubs’ skipper said. “Gold-glove second baseman, future All-Star, in my opinion. What he’s done in the offseason and the work he’s done and put in, I think there’s a lot of confidence in this organization about him. But I don’t think it’s fair for him to come off the bench and get stale and have sporadic at-bats. That’s not setting him up for success.”
With Hoerner headed to South Bend to play at the Cubs’ alternate site to begin the season, Ross announced that Eric Sogard also made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster and will come off the bench with outfielder Jake Marisnick. Infielder Ildemaro Vargas could also still make the team’s Opening Day roster in a bench role.