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Can Nico Hoerner fix the Chicago Cubs’ offensive woes? ‘He just needs to be himself,’ says manager David Ross.

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 7/5/2021 Meghan Montemurro, Chicago Tribune
a man holding a baseball bat: Chicago Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner walks on the field before playing the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on May 17, 2021. © Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune Chicago Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner walks on the field before playing the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on May 17, 2021.

Expecting Nico Hoerner’s return from the injured list to fix the Chicago Cubs offense is unrealistic.

That’s too much pressure to put on one player, let alone the 24-year-old second baseman with 90 games of big-league experience. The lineup missed the contact-hitting Hoerner since he went on the IL in late May with a hamstring injury. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his first game back Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

It’s not easy being forced to the sideline with an injury while the team endures a challenging month.

“Obviously when you can’t control what’s happening on the field, it’s a little harder to make sense of because you’d like to be able to go back to things that you could have done yourself or things you can learn from,” Hoerner said Sunday, “and all I can really do to help the team was get healthy, and I feel really happy with that process.”

Aside from results, Hoerner hopes he can give the Cubs some energy. They certainly need some sort of spark heading into the All-Star break, as they carried a nine-game losing streak into a seven-game homestand beginning Monday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

After missing the last six weeks, Hoerner has a clean mental state.

“For me, it just definitely restores that sense of gratitude,” he said. “When you are playing the game and you’re on the field, especially in the major leagues, is a really special thing to be able to do. I don’t think I’ve taken it for granted much before. But more than ever, when you’re hurt and you come back, you just kind of take a look up to the fans and everyone.”

Hoerner gives the Cubs lineup a different look as they try to fight through the slump. They are a better team with Hoerner playing regularly. But as president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer noted over the weekend, the Cubs need to compete now while dealing with injuries — and losing contact hitters such as Hoerner and Matt Duffy shouldn’t cripple an offense. That’s problematic.

As the Cubs continue to get healthy, any returning players can’t be seen as the only answer. It will take a collective effort to get out of this funk

“I know he’s wanted to help out,” manager David Ross said. “I don’t think there’s any added pressure for him. He just needs to come back and be himself. I don’t think any one person is going to be that type of savior.

“I know lots has been made of some of the injuries and stuff, but we’ve got plenty enough talent and we’ve proven being able to win baseball games. We just have to do a better job in a couple areas.”

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