Twenty minutes before the skies opened above PNC Park, the cool fall weather in full force, Nico Horner took his position at shortstop.

Horner had not made an onfield throw from his position since Sept. 11, when imaging revealed he had a mild to moderate right triceps strain. The injury did not occur on a single throw, but during a diving attempt on a ball over the middle.

“When it happened, it wasn’t like, ‘Dang, I’m hurt. I’m going to miss a lot of time,”’ Horner said Thursday. “When it happened, it didn’t feel like that. … There are always things as I play that are going to pop up. Every player will have everyday stuff but especially playing in the middle of the field, and if you get some pressure, you want to try to make it a diving play and play close first. No regrets, I was ready to play. I felt good physically and it was unfortunate, but you move on.

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With 12 games remaining after the Cubs’ series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hoerner isn’t ruling out a return this season. This would be his ideal outcome.

“If I’m in a place where I’m healthy and there’s a good chunk of games left, like 30 or 40 at-bats left, I think it’s valuable time,” he said.

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Horner reiterated that he needs to get back physically and everyone needs to be on the same page. He knows the end of the season is fast approaching but believes a return is a realistic goal.

When healthy, Horner has proven to be a dynamic all-around player who moved from second base to everyday shortstop this season. While he may face another positional change for 2023, pending the organization’s offseason moves, Horner has shown he can be the type of core player the Cubs need for a successful rebuild. is required And, importantly, Horner showed he’s capable of staying healthy and durable over a long season.

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His 125 games and 477 plate appearances are both more than his first three years of big league experience, playing in 112 games and making 378 PA since he debuted in 2019. Some of his playing time in 2020 was limited by performance as he struggled to get forward. Track aggressively.

An ankle injury that cost him 12 games in May after colliding with an umpire, Horner had been a fixture in the Cubs lineup before his triceps issue. That’s a stark contrast to last season, when Horner went on the injured list four times due to three illnesses. Horner’s offseason workout adjustments and how he prepares for 2022. He plans to take a step back after the season to analyze how his previous workout plan set his body up to handle the six-month grind. Horner expects to use a similar program this offseason.

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“I’m really proud of how I handled things that I dealt with last year from my hamstring to my obliques — those are basic baseball muscles, like you say those words every time. Listen to the times and those are the ones you want to be on. On top of that and know how to take care of yourself,” Horner said. “It’s too bad I had to take the time to learn the process, but I’m really proud of how I played throughout the year, physically being able to play every single day that August. We’ve had a long time, pretty much. Playing every game and feeling good physically.

“Honestly, the best I’ve felt physically was in early September, so I’m very happy with that.”

Around this time last year, Horner was also at PNC Park, but instead of sitting with the visitors and talking about a comeback like Thursday, he was shut out with a week of games remaining because he stopped the diagonal narrowing. Horner’s value to the Cubs’ roster puzzle is even more evident this September and the important role he can play in how the front office builds its next playoff-contending roster.

“I’ve always trusted that if I had a full season to play, I knew exactly what it would look like, that I would have a workout that I was proud of,” Horner said. “And there’s a ton to build off of this year. I don’t really believe in ceilings for baseball players either way. There’s a lot of ups and downs from year to year and every opportunity I have, Continue to grow with.

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