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Andrelton Simmons’ return provides the Chicago Cubs a timely boost with shortstop Nico Hoerner on the injured list

Andrelton Simmons’ return to the Chicago Cubs couldn’t have come at a better time.

Simmons endured a frustrating rehab from right shoulder soreness, something he never had experienced in his 11-year big-league career before it sidelined him during spring training.

But with second baseman Nick Madrigal already on the injured list, shortstop Nico Hoerner’s move to the IL on Sunday struck a big blow to the Cubs’ middle infield depth while costing them one of their best defensive players.

The Cubs activated Simmons from the IL as the corresponding move Sunday, and he entered as a defensive replacement at shortstop in the ninth inning and recorded the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Simmons — who started at short in Monday’s series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field — indicated his shoulder feels pretty good but still has room to improve.

He didn’t need to wait long to collect his first hit as a Cub. With the bases loaded in the first inning, Simmons hit a soft roller down the third-base line that slowed to a stop halfway to the base without a play being made. The two-out RBI infield single was part of an eight-run first against the Pirates.

Hoerner’s stellar play at shortstop allowed Simmons to take the proper time to build up his shoulder and not feel pressured to join the Cubs before he was fully ready.

“He was holding (it down), so I’m like, all right, I’ve got some room to improve,” Simmons said. “Do I jump back in or do I try to keep getting better, as good as I can, so I’m close to my best?

“(The trainers) had my back the whole time. They made extra time for me and all that. So they want me out there. They’re doing everything to keep me on the field.”

Simmons was a little discouraged by how long the shoulder soreness lingered, but he’s happy to finally be around his teammates. All of his 1,190 major-league games in the field have come at shortstop, though he’s willing to play second base if needed.

Simmons likely will receive the bulk of playing time at shortstop for however long Hoerner is sidelined.

“I mean, I want to help the team any way I can,” Simmons said. “I know short is always going to be my forte, but Nico has been playing pretty good. So whatever they need, I’m here to help.”

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