Maddon, Montero break bread to help Chicago Cubs move forward

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero celebrates with manager Joe Maddon after scoring a run against the Arizona Diamonbacks last June.

    Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero celebrates with manager Joe Maddon after scoring a run against the Arizona Diamonbacks last June. Associated Press/2016 file

  • Miguel Montero says he understands his role with the Cubs and is focused on helping the team repeat as World Series champions.

      Miguel Montero says he understands his role with the Cubs and is focused on helping the team repeat as World Series champions. Bruce Miles | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/21/2017 7:17 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- There's nothing quite like a nice Italian dinner and a bottle of red to make things right.

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero got the warm glow going again over dinner Monday night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We had a good time," Maddon said Tuesday after the Cubs worked out on a sunny day. "Miggy picked out a place way up in Scottsdale, Andreoli's Grocer Market. Reeked of Hazleton (Pennsylvania) back home. Loved it. Real Italian dude running the place. The ravioli was spectacular. Great conversation. We had a really good time.

"It was a perfect setting just to really have an opportunity to have a conversation."

That conversation, both men said, centered on 2017, not 2016. Even though the Cubs won the World Series and Montero had some big postseason hits, he had expressed unhappiness with his reduced playing time.

But manager and player decided to leave the past in the past, as they broke bread and uncorked vino in the company of Cubs quality assurance coach Henry Blanco. This season the 33-year-old Montero knows he will be the backup to second-year man Willson Contreras.

"It was a good time," Montero said. "We both wanted to talk to each other. At the end of the day, this is 2017. We turn the page. Our main goal right now is 2017. We both agreed on that. Pretty much all I said was, 'You know what, man, let me in. I want to be part of it. I want you to trust me. I can help in different ways. I know what my role is, which is fine. I'm good with that. All I want to be is helpful for the team.

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"I tell you, I went to bed and I slept so good. I felt amazing, and he probably did, too. We're a team. We've got one goal in common."

Montero has been an outspoken player and team leader throughout his career, and he doesn't want a certain word associated with his name.

"I've never been a cancer wherever I play," he said. "I'm not planning to be one of those guys. I'm telling you, whatever it takes me to help him, I was (true) with him. I said, 'If you feel Willson needs a break and it's (Clayton) Kershaw pitching for the other team, put me in. I'm fine.' You know what? That's my role. That's my job. Just count on me and whatever.

"If we need to send a message out there to the players, I'm here for you, too. I can help you in that and vice versa. If I do something you don't like, just let me know. Just chew me out, whatever. I'll take it like a man."

Montero has been getting after it in workouts. He took part in the Cubs' photo-day activities early Tuesday morning before hitting the fields.

"I actually felt when I came in this morning, I felt awesome," he said. "It was a great feeling. That's what I'm looking for. I want to have fun. I want to enjoy. And we've got a special team with a legitimate chance to win another championship."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maddon echoed those sentiments and had high praise for his veteran catcher.

"He started first and he was saying to me exactly what I wanted to say to him," Maddon said. "So it's kind of nice. When it comes down to understanding pitchers, we have so much in common. It was a good opportunity to talk.

"This guy, eventually, if he wants to, is going to be a coach, a manager, whatever he wants to do, a scout. But we had a really good time. We really didn't talk about last year a whole lot. We just talked about now, talked about the beautiful thing is we won a World Series together. And it's about moving forward.

"Really, there was not a lot of hashing about the past. It was about now and what's going to happen next."

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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