Cubs' Contreras named all-star starter for third time
This one always seemed like an easy choice for voters, but it became official Friday -- Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be the National League All-Star starter for the third time in his career.
The game will be played July 19 at Dodger Stadium, and that's where Contreras was when he heard the news as the Cubs faced Los Angeles late Friday night.
"It meant a lot," Contreras said to the Marquee Network before the game. "It's really overwhelming, for sure. It makes you think of the work that you put in before the season, all the judgment you have to make during the season, everything that I had to block out to keep my focus on baseball."
Contreras will be a free agent after the season and there's been strong speculation he'll be traded before the Aug. 2 deadline. Last year, Kris Bryant started in the All-Star Game and was traded to the Giants a few weeks later.
Heading into Friday's action, Contreras led NL catchers in batting average at .274, hits, runs, doubles, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He's tied with the Dodgers' Will Smith for the lead among catchers in NL home runs with 13.
Contreras was not in Friday's starting lineup, so it appeared he'd miss his fourth straight game with a sore hamstring. He was not used in a pinch-hitting situation in Thursday's 5-3 loss to LA. With the tying runs on base in the ninth inning, manager David Ross used Nelson Velazquez to pinch-hit and he struck out to end the game.
Contreras, who previously started in 2018 and '19, will be the 10th player in Cubs history to make at least three all-star starts, joining Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Don Kessinger, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo and Sammy Sosa.
Contreras' younger brother William was a finalist for an all-star spot at DH. He lost the final vote to Bryce Harper, who is sidelined with a broken thumb, so it's possible the Atlanta catcher will join his older brother in the game. The rest of the all-stars will be announced Sunday.
Stroman set to start:
The Cubs are planning on Marcus Stroman to come off the injured list and start Saturday's game in Los Angeles. He last pitched for the Cubs on June 3 against St. Louis and was sidelined with right shoulder inflammation.
He pitched a rehab game for the Iowa Cubs last Sunday and it didn't go well. Stroman gave up 5 runs and 7 hits in 2⅔ innings against Columbus.
Justin Steele is in Chicago awaiting the birth of his first child and there's been no update on his availability.
Frank Schwindel (back) began his rehab assignment with Iowa by going 0-for-3 at the plate for Iowa on Friday. Nick Madrigal, who played for Iowa on Thursday, took the day off. ...
The South Bend Cubs had a memorable ending Thursday, with Owen Caissie hitting a walk-off grand slam in an 8-6 win over Wisconsin. Caissie -- rated the No. 8 prospect in the Cubs organization by MLB Pipeline -- then celebrated his 20th birthday on Friday.
"I mean, that'll be my last hit as a teenager, so I will never forget that one," Caissie said after the game. "But it's a pretty good feeling."
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