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An all-too-common thread is going through the Chicago Cubs roster this season, and it’s a strained hamstring.
Second baseman Nico Hoerner became the latest to go on the 10-day injured list with one before Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh.
Hoerner, who strained his left hamstring trying to beat out a bunt in the Cubs’ 4-3, come-from-behind victory over the Pirates the night before, is one of three Cubs out with a hamstring problem, joining outfielders Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick.
All told the Cubs have 10 players on the IL.
Never mind that first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was kept out of the starting lineup Wednesday, has been working to manage lower-back tightness.
Cubs manager David Ross, who said Hoerner’s strain was mild to moderate, rejected the notion there might be something in how players train that has figured in the run of Cubs coming up lame.
“It is an issue this year in our game, all around the game, so it’s hard to put it all in a box about how these guys look and how they train,” Ross told reporters.
To fill Hoerner’s roster spot, the Cubs brought up outfielder Rafael Ortega from Triple-A Iowa and started him in left field. Eric Sogard started at second.
Meanwhile, coming off the injured list was pitcher Shelby Miller, who was activated only to be designated for assignment.
Kris Bryant took over at first base for Rizzo, who said on a morning radio show Wednesday he was well enough to start. Nevertheless, Ross pulled him from the lineup because his back was again stiff.
“Rizz has a little low-back tightness, probably from sitting on his hotel-room couch talking to (WMVP-AM 1000′s) David Kaplan maybe — just kidding,” Ross said, noting Rizzo would be available to pinch hit.
“He tried to work it out. I don’t want to push it. … We’ll try to not have him on his feet with the quick turnaround with a day game” Thursday at PNC Park.
Bringing up Ortega rather than an infielder will fuel speculation Ross intends to let Bryant play third rather than the outfield when Rizzo is able to play first. But Ross was noncommittal.
“(Bryant is) playing good outfield and playing at an MVP level at the plate, so (it’s) ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ in my mind,” Ross said. “But, yeah, that’s definitely an option.”
David Bote, who started at third Wednesday, homered in the second inning to get the Cubs off to a 2-0 lead. So it’s understandable Ross might not want to tweak things just yet.
There was one bit of good news for the Cubs on the health front. Catcher Willson Contreras, who sat out Tuesday after taking a pitch to the wrist while behind the plate in Sunday’s victory in St. Louis, was back in the lineup.
ESPN hearts Cubs-Cardinals
Having had success with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend, ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” booked yet another Cubs-Cards game for June 13.
That’s great news if you’re a fan of announcer Matt Vasgersian and Álex Rodríguez. Other fans can only hope ESPN decides to bring in Jason Benetti and the Statcast crew for a secondary feed. Failing that, maybe you can snag a ticket at Wrigley Field and see it for yourself.
There’s always Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer with the radio call on WSCR-AM 670.
Sunday’s Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis averaged 1,529,000 viewers nationally, according to Nielsen, with ESPN all too happy to note “Sunday Night Baseball” viewership is up 29% from last year.