On the same day one of the Cubs’ most significant trade deadline departures returned, one of their biggest additions made his first appearance at Wrigley Field.
Shortly before Kris Bryant met a crowd of reporters Friday morning, Nick Madrigal gathered with a group of Cubs players — including Nico Hoerner and Patrick Wisdom — on the outfield grass.
Friday was Madrigal’s first trip to Wrigley since the Cubs acquired him — along with Codi Heuer — from the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline. The 24-year-old has been rehabbing from a season-ending hamstring injury at the Cubs’ complex in Arizona.
“I was fortunate to be able to make this trip,” Madrigal said Saturday. “It does a lot for me to get in the clubhouse and see the field, the guys. It helps to be in uniform.
“It feels a little bit more real now. I’m really enjoying this weekend.”
It’ll be a brief trip for Madrigal. He’ll go back to Arizona on Sunday and continue rehabbing there from surgery to repair proximal tendon tears in his right hamstring, sustained in June with the Sox.
Madrigal was also in Arizona on July 30, watching trade deadline coverage with his girlfriend, when Sox general manager Rick Hahn called him to tell him he was headed to the North Side.
“I didn’t see my name in anything, and at the last second it happened,” he said. “It was a shock, but after it happened, just started to figure out what’s going on.”
Cubs president Jed Hoyer made a trip out to Arizona in early August to meet Madrigal and welcome him to the organization. They attended an Arizona Complex League game, where the Cubs youngest prospects play.
“We talked about some of the guys that were on the field and just how much talent is in the organization overall," Madrigal said. "There’s definitely some upside in the future for these young guys coming up.
"It's definitely exciting to be in this uniform."
Madrigal said Hoerner, a fellow 2018 first-round pick, was one of the first people to welcome him to the team after the trade. Their relationship dates to facing each other in youth and high school baseball, and in the Pac-12 — Hoerner at Stanford and Madrigal at Oregon State.
“We really enjoyed playing against each other,” Madrigal said. “Over the years, we grew a friendship and playing against each other in college was pretty special.
“To be here at the highest level together, I'm looking forward to it big time. We have similar styles of play, and I think we complement each other really well.”
That should be exciting for Cubs fans to hear. Madrigal and Hoerner, both known for their contact skills, could be key parts of the Cubs lineup in 2022 and beyond.
First, Madrigal will continue his rehab. His doctor cleared him to begin jogging on Friday, he said, with baseball activities likely following in November as he prepares for 2022 spring training.
Between now and then, the White Sox will play in the postseason. As stunning as the trade may have been, Madrigal said he understands the business of baseball and it doesn’t sting watching his old squad gear up for October without him.
“I'm happy for those guys,” he said. “I grew up through the system with those guys, so I'm rooting for them. I have a lot of great friends over there."
Madrigal's only game experience at Wrigley came during the fan-less 2020 season. This weekend has offered a taste of Cubs fans' energy, certainly seen in the receptions Bryant received in his return with the Giants.
Heuer has been texting him about the atmosphere since the trade.
"He was saying, 'It feels like one of the happiest places ever to play [at]. Everyone's in a great mood — the fans, the atmosphere.'
"That’s something that really stuck with me."