Nico Hoerner talks Wrigley Field, not overreacting to Cubs' early-season injuries

On the heels of his exciting dash to score against the Diamondbacks on Monday night, Hoerner had plenty to say in an interview with 670 WSCR.
Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

If the Chicago Cubs live up to expectations and return to the playoffs for the first time in a full season since 2018, Nico Hoerner's mad dash from second to home in Arizona this week on a ball that got by the catcher will undoubtedly be a moment we all remember as one that embodies the club.

Hoerner, fresh off a Gold Glove-winning 2023 campaign, had gotten off to a bit of a slow start at the plate, but after tallying only eight hits in his first 14 contests, quickly racked up a half-dozen between Monday's exciting win and Tuesday's back-and-forth affair that ended in an extra-inning loss for the Cubs.

He chatted with Parkins and Spiegel on 670 The Score Tuesday morning, touching on several topics - from Michael Busch's strong start to the year to Pat Hughes showing him some love on the radio broadcast this week. The interview is definitely worth a listen, but I want to focus on two key takeaways from Hoerner's comments.

Cubs can take some hard lessons away from these recent injuries

The first is something that we could all use a reminder on: not panicking given the Cubs' rash of early-season injuries, most notably to Justin Steele and, now, Seiya Suzuki. Steele's Opening Day gem was cut short in Texas and with Suzuki expected to miss four weeks with an oblique strain, it's safe to say Chicago is far from full-strength here in late April.

“It’s tough when you have someone [like ace pitcher Justin Steele] at the heart of the team go down like that. But at the same time, it creates opportunities…We’ve kind of been through a lot through the first couple weeks of the season.”

As Hoerner noted, the loss of Steele - and fellow starter Jameson Taillon - early on in the year has created opportunities for guys to step up. Right-hander Javier Assad continues to defy expectations and has a 2.16 ERA through three starts and coveted pitching prospect Ben Brown has settled in after a rocky debut, allowing just two earned in his last 14 2/3 innings of work.

The hope, then, is that these early season challenges will mean the Cubs are that much deeper and well-rounded when they return to full strength and they won't be as reliant on a select group of players. There's no replacing a Steele or a Suzuki, but manager Craig Counsell will learn how to best deploy the entire 26-man roster over the grind of 162 games while playing with half a deck.

Nico Hoerner and the Cubs know Wrigley Field is, well, different.

Chicago wrapped up its West Coast road trip on Wednesday and will open a homestand on Thursday, welcoming the Miami Marlins to town. It's been said countless times by innumerable players over the years, but Hoerner knows there's something special about Wrigley and the energy the guys feed off when playing in front of the home faithful.

“There is a difference. Playing at Wrigley is real. It’s just awesome…I do feel like it’s unique in a lot of ways and we do have an advantage when we play there. Where it’s real or a gut feeling…we’ll feel that and won’t ever be able to quantify it.”

The Cubs will need to improve on its fairly pedestrian record away from the Friendly Confines as the season wears on if they want to be playing come October, but they've been dominant at home with a 5-1 mark and a +22 run differential on the first homestand. Here's to hoping they can carry that momentum into this weekend's series against Miami and really start rounding into form heading into May.