Cubs’ Nico Hoerner (right oblique strain) beginning baseball activities

DENVER – Second baseman Nico Hoerner hasn’t had the easiest season in 2021 and after getting off to a red-hot start, he’s had a tough time with staying on the field.

Hoerner has been on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain since July 29, but has begun to make some progress. The 24-year-old infielder went through about an hour of on-field agility drills and also played catch for the first time since the injury.

“Learning to play baseball at this level is a lot about playing baseball and also just being available,” Hoerner said on Thursday. “When you’re not available then the baseball side of it isn’t an option. No regrets on how I’ve been training or going about it, but kind of just take things that have happened and learn from it as best you can.”

Hoerner is slashing .313/.388/.388 with 10 doubles, 14 RBIs and 15 walks in 39 games this season.

The Cubs are going to take their time with Hoerner and while going through baseball activity is a positive sign, he won’t be coming off the IL any time soon. A possible return for Hoerner would likely come toward the end of August or beginning of September.

“He’s moving forward,” manager David Ross said before Thursday’s 6-5 loss. “His rehab is going well. don’t think it’s a process where we’re gonna see him soon, but yeah, I mean he’s doing some things. … He moved around really nicely yesterday. Ran, did all his lower body work, his sprint work and we’ll see how the rotational stuff goes for him.”

Ross looking to get Contreras some rest

Catcher Willson Contreras is a workhorse behind the plate and in a league that has gone away from catchers giving backstops a serious workload, the Cubs catcher has taken on the challenge.

Contreras leads all catchers in MLB with 92 games caught and while his manager has relied on him to be in the lineup, especially when the team’s backup catchers went down with injury, Ross wants to make sure to get his catcher some rest down the stretch.

“He’ll have tomorrow off,” Ross said. “I wanted to get him three [starts] in a row here. He swung the bat really well yesterday and didn’t have a lot to show for it.

“It’s hard to keep [Robinson Chirinos] and [Willson] out of the lineup when there’s a lefty going. I want to give [Chirinos] a lefty for once. He’s got some good numbers off of them historically.”

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