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As David Ross gets set to return to the Chicago Cubs dugout, Nick Madrigal prepares for 2022 after being acquired from the White Sox: ‘Honestly, it was a shock’

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
 2021-09-11
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Chicago White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal (1) runs on the field before playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 8, 2021. Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune

Chicago Cubs fans enjoyed another blast from the past Saturday on Day Two of Kris Bryant’s homecoming weekend as manager David Ross readied himself for a return to the dugout, and recently acquired second baseman Nick Madrigal imagined his new future life at Wrigley Field.

Acting manager Andy Green confirmed Ross plans to return from his 10-day quarantine from a positive COVID-19 test in time for Sunday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs begin a six-game trip Tuesday in Philadelphia.

“His time is up from a quarantine perspective, so this will be the last time you guys have to talk to me,” Green said. “I told him I was going to go on a little two-day vacation, take it to the house and see you guys in Philly. I don’t know if he’s going to approve of that, but he’s back in charge (Sunday), so I needed to get permission.”

Green has had an interesting stint since replacing Ross, who has not been allowed to manage since Sept. 1 in Minnesota after he and team President Jed Hoyer tested positive for COVID-19. The Cubs avoided an outbreak like the one that has decimated the Boston Red Sox clubhouse, with no players, coaches or personnel testing positive after Ross and Hoyer.

The Cubs went 6-3 under Green, losing to the Giants 15-4 on Saturday, with Ross making the daily lineup and naming the starting pitcher and Green running the show during games.

Unfortunately for Green, Ross gets credit for the wins and losses.

“My record needs a lot of help, man,” Green said. “There is no doubt about that. I don’t know if I can petition MLB to have these wins transferred over to my resume.”

Despite the Cubs being well under .500, there is optimism the worst is behind them during a roller-coaster season that basically has been divided in two unequal parts — the pre- and post-trade-deadline teams.

The former endured an 11-game losing streak that ignited Hoyer’s massive deadline dump, and the latter went through a 12-game skid that gave credence to the notion the Cubs are a long way from having a contending roster.

But the unexpected power surge from waiver claim Frank Schwindel, who has 12 home runs and 34 RBIs since joining the team, and the improvement of rookie starter Justin Steele, have helped calm the nerves of jittery Cubs fans. Schwindel’s 31 RBIs since Aug. 5 was second in the National League to C.J. Cron’s 36, and the 29-year-old first baseman’s hot bat has made up for the loss of Bryant and Javier Báez.

Another reason to keep hope alive was the sight of Madrigal walking around Wrigley Field on Saturday morning during a brief stay on the North Side to get acclimated with his new teammates, coaches and staff.

“I’m trying to figure out everyone’s names,” Madrigal said with a smile. “Truly everyone has been really awesome to me.”

Acquired from the White Sox along with reliever Codi Heuer on June 30 in the Craig Kimbrel deal, Madrigal has been rehabbing his torn right hamstring at the Cubs facility in Mesa, Ariz. Madrigal suffered the season-ending injury June 9 while trying to beat out a grounder in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Madrigal said he isn’t able to start running yet and won’t be ready for baseball activities until November. He also said he felt something in the hamstring a “couple weeks” before it was torn but decided to play through it.

“I had a tough time,” he said. “I was really thinking about, leading up to when it happened, whether I should take myself out or keep playing. I felt like I was playing pretty well at the time. If I’m able to run out there and be OK, I’m not going to take myself out.

“But big picture, maybe I should’ve taken a couple days. But I understand it’s in the past. Everything happens for a reason.”

With that bit of news, it now makes more sense why the Sox have been ultraconservative with shortstop Tim Anderson’s legs , sitting him for “soreness.”

Madrigal, a former first-round pick, was expected to be the Sox’s second baseman for years, only to be used in a trade to strengthen the bullpen for a postseason run. He was surprised to get the call from Sox general manager Rick Hahn that he had been dealt to the Cubs, pointing out his name hadn’t been mentioned in trade rumors.

“Honestly, it was a shock,” he said. “But after the day it happened and I started to figure out what was going on, I’ve always been someone that’s just like, ‘OK, next chapter.’ So I got over it pretty quick. It was a (stunner). But I’m looking forward to (being a Cub).”

Madrigal said he is still “rooting” for the Sox and of course would still get a ring if they win the World Series.

But his focus is on winning one with the Cubs, with whom he’ll be an integral part of whatever lineup Ross writes out in 2022.

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