Cubs' Hoerner Keeps Impressing Amid Playoff Race

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Watching Cubs rookie infielder Nico Hoerner hop off his couch one day to fill a key role in a tight playoff race has been a nice revelation for the Cubs in a season in which they've failed to live up to expectations.

Having made his MLB debut last Monday, Hoerner has hit .417 (10-of-24) with two homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.231 OPS in his first six games. He hasn't been fazed by the pressure of a playoff race.

"You have so many players in this room with different pressures and challenges," the 22-year-old Hoerner said. "You see it all about how you can get a group all pulling in the same direction. For me, if it's about supplying a late-season spark by playing hard and late-season results. That's something I am glad to provide."

The Cubs selected Hoerner in the first round of the amateur draft in 2018, and he became the first member of that class to earn an MLB callup. His dominant start has come at a time in which the Cubs were desperate for middle infield help as Javier Baez suffered a fractured thumb and Addison Russell deals with a concussion.

"It's really cool to see," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of Hoerner's hot start. "Here is a guy who was sitting on his couch, in a situation we are in and it's refreshing to see what he is doing. It's fun to see."

While Baez is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, Russell could return soon. The Cubs haven't indicated if Hoerner will remain the everyday shortstop with Russell back, but it's difficult to envision them taking his hot bat out of the lineup when he's also playing defense that has pleased manager Joe Maddon.

"Nico's performance can not be overlooked," Maddon said. "The thing I am focused on is his defense. He has really done a nice job on defense, which we needed at the moment out there. The offense has been a plus. Listen, I have not really given any of this a thought and will not until Addison is ready to rock and roll. I know if Nico started a game that we could upgrade the defense by putting Addison in later in the game. I will not let myself go there, because I don't know if (Russell) will play. I just don't know that."

Hoerner's 11 RBIs are the most by a Cubs player in his first six games going back at least 111 seasons, according to the team's media relations department.

"My message to Nico is keeping on doing what you are doing," Maddon said. "He has impressed the industry but more importantly the clubhouse. The guys have really been impressed by him." 

Hoerner hasn't been overwhelmed in any way. He's simply fit in seamlessly.

"I have tried not to overindulge in all the information we are given," Hoerner said. "Keeping it simple and sticking to what I have done for awhile."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.