The two Cubs taking ground balls at second base Friday afternoon had vastly different résumés.

Jason Kipnis: The nine-season veteran returning home to Chicago after becoming a staple in Cleveland.

Nico Hoerner: The 23-year-old with 20 big-league games under his belt.

"Right now, people are looking at second base as kind of a weakness on this team, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Kipnis said. “I know both of us are more than capable of stepping in and making it a strong suit."

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On Friday, the Cubs selected Kipnis’ contract from the Triple-A Iowa roster, a long-expected move that’s part of the club solidifying its roster before Opening Day. Kipnis and Hoerner headline the second-base position battle. Infielder Daniel Descalso, who is a left-handed hitter and on the back half of a two-year, $5 million contract, is also expected to make the expanded roster.

“We’ve got a really good competition,” Cubs manager David Ross said of second base.

Kipnis’ 2019 season was cut short due to a broken bone in his right wrist. He started last season on the injured list due to a strained calf.

But Ross said Kipnis is “moving better” now than even in Spring Training. Ross was complimentary of Kipnis’ baserunning and on Friday said, “He’s been swinging the bat well. … Just a well-rounded player who looks really good, and looking at this résumé really feel like he can help us out in a lot of ways.”

 

Then there’s Hoerner, whom the Cubs fast-tracked to the big leagues last September with Javy Báez and Addison Russell sidelined by injuries. Hoerner jumped from Double-A Tennessee into the pressure of a Major League September, and was widely lauded for his poise.

“You can ask Nico, he knows I’m a big fan of him,” Kipnis said. “We’ve been working together, and I know he has a bright future. He’s ahead of probably where I was at his age. There’s just little bits and pieces of the game that he still has to learn the intricacies, and that’s where I try to help out.”

The cancellation of the Minor League season may have given Hoerner another nudge into the fast lane. This year, the Cubs don’t have to weigh whether extra at-bats in Triple-A would be more beneficial for Hoerner’s development. Instead, he’ll be competing with Kipnis for playing time.

“It will be a challenge,” Ross said of choosing his starting second baseman night in and night out, “especially as more than one guy is swinging the bat well.”

Matchups will play a role. But usually Ross’ calculation will be more straight forward than that. 

“The guys that are swinging the bats well,” Ross said, “are going to play.”

 

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