Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras followed Friday’s two-home run game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels with a 1-for-5, three-strikeout day on Saturday.
As the Cubs aim for an interleague series victory in Sunday’s matinee, the young, excitable backstop is working to stay calm and collected no matter how he fares. Contreras knows the team needs him to be steady as it works to dig out of early-season struggles.
“He still has his moments, but he’s much more subdued, in a sense,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But we’ve got to keep him there. This guy is the best — I mean, physically talented best — catcher in the National League.”
An All-Star in 2018, Contreras struggled in the second half of the season. He spent the offseason working on his plate discipline, and that investment is starting to pay off.
Contreras already has walked seven times while showing selectiveness on his way to hitting five home runs — half his season total from 2018.
“Last year, whenever I saw the wind blowing out, I would just try to hit something in the air or hit a 1,000-foot homer, but it didn’t work out,” Contreras said.
The Cubs also have been pleased with Conteras’ work behind the plate. He figures to manage an increased workload given the recent injury of backup catcher Victor Caratini, who will be out for four to six weeks with a broken bone in his left hand.
Chicago recalled Taylor Davis from Triple-A Iowa before Friday’s series opener against the Angels.
“I’m just here to help,” Davis said. “I don’t know what they want (or) what they need, but whatever I can do, I’m going to.”
Right hander Tyler Chatwood (0-0, 6.00 ERA) is set to make his first start of the season for the Cubs, replacing lefty Jon Lester, who was placed on the injured list on Wednesday due to hamstring tightness.
After showing control problems in 2018, Chatwood has been spotty thus far in 2019, walking five batters in four appearances covering six innings.
Angels righty Trevor Cahill (1-1, 3.50 ERA) gets the call against his former team. Cahill leaned on his familiarity with the National League Central in his most recent outing, scattering two runs on five hits over six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. Cahill struck out eight.
The teams will hope to play the game without delay, as inclement weather — including wind, cold rain and wet snow — are part of the forecast in Chicago. Angels center fielder Mike Trout did not travel with the club as he manages a strained right groin that began bothering him last week. Trout is slated to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.
“We don’t play them a lot, and when you have a player like that, you’re not taking that at-bat off, watching him,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “When he comes to the plate usually everyone watches, because he’s that special of a player. It’s unfortunate that his groin is hurting him, but he has to do what’s best for him in the long run.”
–Field Level Media
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