Andrelton Simmons’ return to the Chicago Cubs couldn’t have come at a better time.
Simmons endured a frustrating rehab for sore right shoulder, something he had never experienced in his 11-year major league career before he was dropped during spring training.
But with second baseman Nick Madrigal already on the disabled list, the move of shortstop Nico Hoerner to the disabled list on Sunday dealt a huge blow to the Cubs’ midfield depth and cost them one of their best defensive players.
The Cubs activated Simmons from the IL as the corresponding move on Sunday, and he came on as a defensive replacement at shortstop in the ninth inning and recorded the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Simmons, who started short in Monday’s series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field, said his shoulder feels pretty good but still has room for improvement.
He didn’t have to wait long to get his first hit as a Cub. With the bases loaded in the first inning, Simmons hit a soft roll down the third base line that stopped midbase without a play being made. The two-out RBI infield single was part of an eight-run first run against the Pirates.
Hoerner’s stellar play at shortstop allowed Simmons to take adequate time to strengthen his shoulder and not feel pressured to join the Cubs before he was fully ready.
“He was holding it, so I’m like, okay, I’ve got room to improve,” Simmons said. “Do I jump back or do I try to keep improving, the best I can, to be close to my best level?
“(The coaches) supported me all the time. They gave me overtime and all that. So they want me out there. They are doing everything they can to keep me on the field.”
Simmons was a bit bummed about the length of the shoulder pain, but he’s happy to finally be with his teammates. All of his 1,190 major league field games have been at shortstop, though he’s willing to play second base if needed.
Simmons is likely to get most of the playing time at shortstop during the time Hoerner is out.
“I mean, I want to help the team in any way that I can,” Simmons said. “I know short will always be my forte, but Nico has been playing pretty well. So whatever you need, I’m here to help you.”