Is Cubs' Contreras one of NL's 'elite' catchers?

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday night that second-year catcher Willson Contreras is establishing himself as one of the "elite catchers in the National League."

Contreras is an energetic force behind the plate and on offense. He also has carried a heavy workload after the Cubs traded veteran Miguel Montero earlier this month. Contreras has played in 88 of the Cubs' 98 games.

Manager Joe Maddon says he'll resist putting Contreras in the outfield to get his bat into the lineup and save his knees.

"The knees are not a concern," Maddon said. "Sometimes the weather can be. We have so many outfielders. It's hard to take your guy behind the plate and just stick him in the outfield, and what do you say to those guys that are going to have to sit because you're not playing them and you're going to move your catcher to the outfield?

"We have a lot of good players everywhere. Believe me, man, a daily challenge is getting everybody involved in the lineup and keeping them all happy. It's a wonderful roster. Fortunately they're all in pretty good shape right now. Moving forward, I'm not saying I wouldn't do that. It would have to be a unique situation."

The leading man:

Right fielder Jason Heyward led off for the third time this season. He went 0-for-5 in Monday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox, but Maddon likes having the option.

"We talked a little bit before the (all-star) break about the possibility of doing it," the manager said. "So I know that he's in. Look at his numbers and look how he's hitting the ball right now. He normally has a good at-bat against the lefty, also. That he's amenable really matters a lot.

"He's really making a stand as being among the leaders on the team. Watch him coming off the field. He's even high-fiving batboys. I love that stuff. That's what you need. You need that unifying force, the force multiplier. He's a force multiplier. That's what he does daily."

Backing Rondon:

Joe Maddon was happy with the bounce-back outing reliever Hector Rondon had in Sunday night's 5-3 victory over the Cardinals. Rondon earned his eighth hold of the season, and it came two days after he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and gave up 4 of the Cardinals' 9 runs in the eighth inning.

"Last night when he came out, I got right in his face at that moment," Maddon said. "I said, 'Man, that is it. I just want you to focus on making pitches and believe you're going to make the pitch you want to make. Focus on that.' His stuff (Sunday) was as good as I've ever seen it. That's as good as I've ever seen his stuff. Ever.

"You could really see that jump at home plate, with guys with the really elite fastballs. And that's what I saw last night. Now, throw that elite fastball where you want to, and heads up, because the slider's back, too."

This and that:

Jon Jay had 4 hits Monday, the first time he did that since June 1 and 2 of last year while with San Diego … The Cubs have not allowed a first-inning run since giving up 10 to the Pirates in the first on July 9.

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