The Chicago Cubs were faced with an interesting conundrum coming into the 2017 season as they tried to decide which catcher would work with pitcher Jon Lester, but Joe Maddon has already made that determination as spring training begins.
According to the skipper, Willson Contreras will not only be the Cubs’ starting catcher for the bulk of the season, but he will take over the role of catching Lester following the retirement of David Ross after the 2016 campaign.
“The big thing there is the ability from Willson to be able to handle the running game,” Maddon told media members on Tuesday in Arizona. “’We’re going to have David mentor him a little bit regarding the thought, the process, the conversations he’s had with Jonny in the past and continue to move it forward from there. We feel really good about it.”
Lester, who signed with the Cubs before the 2015 season, has worked almost exclusively with Ross over his two years with the team. With his well-documented issues with throwing to first base, it was critical for the Cubs to choose a catcher that could help alleviate the advantages of an opponent’s run game, and with his excellent arm and quick feet, Contreras was the logical choice.
As for Miguel Montero, Maddon said that the veteran will be the back-up to start the season, but that he could get some opportunities to catch additional games if he performs.
“Willson will get the preponderance of play, and Miggy will be out there,” he said. “But again, you never know what’s going to happen during the course of a season, whether it’s an injury or a performance (issue).”
Montero, who is entering the final season of a six-year contract, hit eight home runs and drove in 33 RBI for the Cubs last season, but he batted a paltry .216 as back issues helped to derail his season.