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Jun 20, 2024  |  
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 | Remer,MN
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NextImg:Nick Madrigal reaping the benefits of being fully healthy

Loading on the back leg is important for any hitter. But with how Cubs infielder Nick Madrigal lifts his left leg high at the start of his swing, it sets him up to feel it acutely if his right leg is still recovering from something as significant as the 2021 hamstring tear that effectively ended his White Sox tenure.

After surgery and a long rehab process, a difficult first season on the North Side saw him hit a paltry .249/.305/.282 in 2022. But Madrigal is starting to see the benefits of being another year removed from that setback and fully healthy.

“My body feels great right now,” Madrigal said after clocking his first home run in a Cubs uniform Friday. “Things are starting to sync up a bit. I feel aggressive in the box. I’m on the attack again. I would agree that I haven’t felt this way in a little bit.”

Power has never been Madrigal’s game, but he did have two homers in 54 games for the Sox in 2021. An ill-advised bunt attempt where he admittedly “messed up,” took center stage Thursday night, but that 0-for-4 performance was the only time Madrigal has gone hitless in his last nine games. Overall, the former fourth overall pick is hitting .340/.426/.472 in 17 games since getting recalled from Triple-A.

With that, Madrigal’s teammates playful jokes about him driving the ball more feel less like jokes.

“We’ve been getting on him lately about hitting a homer,” said starter Justin Steele. “I’ve been telling him the party’s out front [of the plate] and he’s been getting the [bat] head out a little bit here lately, and he’s starting the party out there.”

Cody two strikes

 Cubs centerfielder Cody Bellinger is homerless with two extra-base hits since returning from a left knee contusion on June 15. But Cubs manager David Ross praised him for a pair of two-strike singles Friday, both of which contributed to run-scoring innings in a 10-1 romp over the Guardians.

While the power hasn’t come back yet, the two hits extended a six-game hitting streak for Bellinger, and Ross sees his outfielder’s two-strike approach as a possible first step to reclaiming his timing after missing a month of action.

“There hasn’t been a lot of slug with him getting going, so I still think his timing is not quite there yet,” Ross said. “Right now I think he’s trying to get more into his plan [at the plate]. You can see the at-bats get a little bit longer, you can see the two-strike hits coming. He’s starting to settle in.”

On the mend

 —Outfielder Seiya Suzuki returned to the lineup Saturday at DH after a three-game absence due to neck stiffness.

—Left-hander Brandon Hughes reported to the team facility in Arizona to begin his rehab from left knee inflammation. Hughes is on the 60-day injured list.

—Third baseman Patrick Wisdom is set to play his third-straight rehab game at Triple-A Iowa. Wisdom has been on the IL since June 17 with a right wrist sprain.

Halfway home

 Saturday will mark the 81st game of the season for the Cubs. At 39-42, they will be under .500 at the halfway point, but enter the weekend with the fifth-best run differential in the National League.

“I love this team,” said Ross. “We’ve got a great starting staff. Our bullpen has kind of worked its way out. We’re not going to slug you to death. I don’t think we’re that type of team. We’re going to have to get key hits and take our walks.”