Chicago Cubs have depth behind plate
If nothing else, the Chicago Cubs have options behind the plate this season, and each catcher has his own story:
• Miguel Montero is the No. 1, and he's in his second season with the Cubs and the fourth season of his five-year contract. He says he's feeling more comfortable heading into this season after coming to the Cubs in a trade with Arizona last winter.
• David Ross, the venerable backup, says he's retiring at the end of this season. He will see plenty of time catching Jon Lester. The Cubs will want to send their popular clubhouse leader out in style.
• Kyle Schwarber continues to work on his craft as a catcher even though he figures to see most of his playing time in left field.
• Willson Contreras made the 40-man roster this winter, and he will get a good look in spring training with an eye toward a possible September call-up.
Montero is the man who will see the most time behind the plate after putting up a hitting line of .248/.345/.409 with 15 homers and 53 RBI last season. It took him some time to get used to the situation with Ross catching Lester, but he said he at least knows the situation this spring.
"I'll have a better idea this time," Montero said, as quoted by espn.com. "It was hard to understand because I didn't know what was going on. I know what to expect a little bit more."
Pencil in Ross for the 30-some starts Lester gets. Ross, who turns 39 on March 19, is a big part of trying to slow down the opposition's running game when Lester is on the mound. It's well documented that Lester has problems throwing to first base on pickoffs.
Ross was 14 of 61 in throwing out runners attempting to steal last season compared with 15 of 86 for Montero and 2 of 15 for Schwarber.
A hugely popular figure in the clubhouse, Ross says he's going to try to soak in the sights and sounds of his final season as a player.
"There was some emotion built up, probably, before I got here," he said. "Just working out and reminiscing a little bit when you're making your last run. Once I got here (to spring training), it's been a huge relief for me, just to get back with the boys, and they let me fit right in. They're already giving me 'old' jokes all the time. It's nice."
The Cubs are allowing Schwarber to pursue his dream of being a catcher even though he has plenty of work to do in that area. If either Montero or Ross suffers an injury and the Cubs don't recall Contreras, all that work could come in handy.
Contreras also is known for his offense, even though he's considered a good catcher. According to mlb.com's scouting report: "Contreras is quicker and more athletic than most backstops, and he owns a strong arm and has made progress with his receiving."
Contreras, 23, had a line of .333/.413/.478 with 8 homers and 75 RBI last year for Class AA Tennessee. He likely will start this year at Class AAA Iowa.