Cubs’ Willson Contreras and Nico Hoerner join starting lineup

CINCINNATI — The Cubs’ roster against the Reds on Thursday edged closer to full strength, as a receiver Willson Contreras and shortstop Nico Hoerner joins the original cast.

For both, their return to action had come the night before, in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ 4-3 loss on Wednesday.

Contreras had missed three games with a hamstring strain and Hoerner (a sprained right ankle) was back from almost two weeks on the injured list.

“I was able to swing pretty soon after, it wasn’t really an issue on the rehab side,” Hoerner said ahead of Wednesday’s game. “So it should be good on that side. But let’s just go back to day-to-day things. It’s not about making up for lost time or any of that mentality. I’m just coming back, doing everything I can and continuing the good energy we’ve been creating lately.

On Thursday, Hoerner and Contreras both hit solo homers.

The Cubs have navigated a spike in injuries, which overlap with several COVID-19-related IL moves, in recent weeks. They had 13 players on the IL on Thursday. Even Hoerner’s activation on Wednesday coincided with the catcher Yan Gomes going on the 10 day IL with a left oblique stump.

However, several players are approaching a comeback. Cubs second baseman Nicholas Madrigal (back weakness) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Saturday.

Cub Pitchers Alec Moulins (right quadriceps stretch) and Sean Newcomb (sprained left ankle) are both scheduled to make appearances in rehab on Friday. This will be Newcomb’s second rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa and Mills’ second since a setback interrupted his month-long rehab assignment.

Cubs players who started the season on the 60-Day IL — including Mills, who the Cubs traded from the 10-Day IL last week — will become eligible to return in less than two weeks.

Suzuki out through injury

Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki left the game in the fourth inning with a sprained left ring finger, which he appeared to sustain on a play at second base in the third inning.

After starting the inning with a single, Suzuki stole second base and slid onto the sack as the pitch shot out Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer. When Suzuki reached out to touch base, Farmer rolled over Suzuki, trying to land the beacon.

Cubs head athletic trainer PJ Mainville checked on Suzuki, who stayed for the rest of the half.

Waiting for Kilian

right-handed Caleb Kilianthe Cubs’ top prospect, isn’t in the conversation to start in either of the Cubs’ doubleheaders next week, manager David Ross said Thursday.

“It feels like real big league stuff, I know he’s having a great season, the trend is up, the speed is increasing, there’s just a lot of good things to like about him,” Ross said. “…I’m sure we’ll see it sooner rather than later.”

Ross didn’t explain why he didn’t expect “sooner” to be as early as next week.

The Cubs will have to add Kilian to the 40-man roster by the end of the year to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

The Cubs are in the middle of a 40-man crisis, which is probably part of the equation. In addition to having all the places filled, in order to bring back the flyers Jason Heyward and Michael Hermosillowho are on the IL without an injury designation (usually related to COVID-19), the Cubs will have to make room on the 40-man roster.

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