Cubs say calling up Contreras came at perfect time
The way the Cubs see it, now is the perfect time to bring up catching prospect Willson Contreras.
They did that Friday, recalling the 24-year-old Contreras from Class AAA Iowa and designating catcher Tim Federowicz for assignment.
"We think it's great timing to get Willson some experience up here, get his feet wet, get acclimated to the big-league level at time when he doesn't have to step in and carry the catching load," said team president Theo Epstein. "We've had good experience in the past calling up young guys to get them acclimated before they necessarily have to carry a large responsibility. We like that. We think it's the best way to do it. The timing's right, with the team playing well, with a little bit of roster flexibility. Certainly, most importantly, he's earned his way up here."
Contreras did that by putting up a line of .350/.439/.591 with 16 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs and 43 RBI at Iowa.
The Cubs will find spots to play Contreras. Miguel Montero started Friday's game with Jake Arrieta pitching, and Montero welcomed Contreras to the team.
"I'm excited," Montero said. "I'm excited for him. Now we're set. Now we've got the missing puzzle (piece).
"I saw him in Double-A when I went to (injury) rehab. I really like him. He's got all it takes to be a big-league catcher, a future all-star catcher, too. Hopefully come to the big-league level with the same attitude, same mentality, which I think he will. It's nice to have him. It's a lot better for the team, too."
Contreras will study the big-league game under veterans Montero and David Ross. Montero was asked about feeling good about Contreras being up rather than feeling threatened.
"I mean, we're on the way out, man," he said of himself and Ross. "We're happy for him, of course. I'm super happy for him because I know the kid, and I know where he comes from and all the work he had to put out to be at the big-league level. I'm glad that he's here."
What does Contreras feel he can learn from them?
"A lot," he said. "I want to take every advantage from them. I will ask any question. I always say as a player you have to work on all your areas because you cannot work on one area and forget about the others. If you want to be a starter, you have to work hard in each area."
Known more for his offense, the Cubs say Contreras has improved in all facets.
"He's got incredible heart, passion and work ethic," Epstein said.
Contreras was set to pinch hit in the eighth inning of Friday's 6-0 win over the Pirates, but Montero lined into an inning-ending double play. But Contreras came in to a huge ovation to catch the top of the ninth.
Nothing doing yet:
Because two wild card teams make the playoffs in each league, Theo Epstein said trade talks haven't yet heated up because so many teams feel they're in the hunt.
The Cubs may look for bullpen help, but Epstein said every bullpen gives up runs during the season.
"It's something to monitor," he said. "Every team would love to add an impact reliever at some point, but I don't think you're going to see us be reactive to situations where relievers are going through a little bit of a downturn in performance."
Schwarber still helping:
Theo Epstein reiterated that injured catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber would not return this year, even for the postseason. Schwarber is recovering from left-knee surgery. Epstein said Schwarber's next checkup in August and that he's been fitted with a new brace, which he called "less onerous" than his first brace.
Epstein added that Schwarber sat in the draft room last week while the team made its amateur selections.
"He was looking for things to do," Epstein said. "He sat in. He's always looking or ways to contribute to the organization. It was neat for us to having him sitting in the draft room for three or four days and adding some levity to the room."