No position battle: Why Nico Hoerner will be Cubs’ primary shortstop

No position battle: Why Nico Hoerner will be Cubs’ primary shortstop

The Cubs reinstated shortstop Nico Hoerner from the IL (right ankle sprain) on Wednesday.

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CINCINNATI — Cubs middle infielders Nico Hoerner and Andrelton Simmons are lined up to play side-by-side for the first time after the team activated Hoerner from the 10-day injured list Wednesday.

So for the first time this season, manager David Ross had to answer a question about who will play shortstop when the two share the field. The 25-year-old Hoerner, who impressed to start the season, or Simmons, a four-time Gold Glover?

Ross’ answer: Hoerner.

‘‘I think there’s a real benefit from a guy that’s young and up-and-coming getting as many reps at short for us,’’ Ross said. ‘‘And the versatility of Simmons, I don’t know that there really is a real position in the infield anymore [with defensive shifts].’’

The Cubs had room to add Hoerner, who is coming back from a sprained right ankle, to the active roster after they put catcher Yan Gomes on the 10-day IL with a strained left oblique. The Cubs had scratched Gomes from the lineup Tuesday.

‘‘The news we got back is [that] it’s not as bad as we thought,’’ Ross said, describing the strain as ‘‘on the milder side.’’

Rookie P.J. Higgins started at catcher for the second consecutive game, with Willson Contreras still managing tightness in his right hamstring.

Contreras flied to deep right-center as a pinch hitter in the ninth, and Hoerner followed with an RBI single as a pinch hitter.

The Cubs, even with second baseman Nick Madrigal still on the 10-day IL with a strained lower back, have options in the middle infield. On Wednesday against the Reds, Simmons started at short and rookie Christopher Morel at second base. Ross said Jonathan Villar will continue to be an option at second, as well as third.

That flexibility will allow the Cubs to keep working in consistent rest days for the middle infielders.

The Cubs also are still evaluating their long-term options at short. Simmons, 32, is on one-year deal. But Hoerner has the opportunity to establish himself as the Cubs’ answer at the position.

‘‘I think Nico has proven he can play big-league shortstop pretty consistently already this season,’’ Ross said. ‘‘So let’s see what happens at the end of the year and assess there. It’s easy to say you can be a shortstop in the big leagues [in the] long term, but you also have to do it; you have to prove it. Sixty games is a lot different than 162.’’

One of Hoerner’s biggest promoters this season has been Simmons, who cited Hoerner’s play as a big reason he didn’t feel rushed to come back from the shoulder injury that landed him on the IL to start the season.

What specifically impressed Simmons?

‘‘His jump throws,’’ Simmons said with a smile. “It’s always nice to be able to make those plays in the hole for a shortstop.’’

Injury update

Left-hander Sean Newcomb (sprained left ankle) got through his first rehab game, throwing one inning for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, with no issues. Right-hander Michael Rucker (turf toe on left foot) threw live batting practice Wednesday.

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