CHICAGO -- If William Contreras does indeed become Atlanta’s catcher of the future, his older brother Willson says their sibling bond will not stop him from displaying the same competitive intensity that sparked a benches-clearing incident Monday night and agitated the Braves in an 8-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"You know what?,” Willson Contreras said. “I think when I go out there, I don't have friends. He's the same way. He knows that when we go out there, we fight for our team and we just care about our team. He's going to do his job. I'm going to do my job. So, if he's up, it's going to happen. Even my brother. He knows. We're both gamers. We both like to win. I think that's a good thing, when you're a winner and you try to do the right thing for your team."
Displaying competitive fire and exuberance is certainly acceptable. But when the ensuing actions are deemed disrespectable, the environment can breed the kind of brief, but spirited verbal spat that occurred when Willson Contreras opened the bottom of the second with an opposite-field homer off Julio Teheran.
“I think it was over as soon as it was over,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It was just a couple of guys having a discussion. It was just a couple catchers going at it.”
What was clearly seen was Contreras saying something to Tyler Flowers as he exited the batter’s box and then exchanging more unpleasantries with the Braves’ catcher as he crossed the plate.
What might not have been seen was the exchange these two catchers shared when Contreras objected to John Tumpane’s call on a 1-1 pitch at the bottom of the zone and then stepped out of the box twice before homering on the next pitch.
“It was all unnecessary, in my opinion,” Flowers said. “If a guy is a decent hitter, he doesn’t need to complain about every call. We won’t get into every aspect of that game we just finished. But he got plenty of calls for his guys, too. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick your battles. Hopefully, that’s something he’ll learn when he gets a little older.”
According to Flowers, Contreras told Tumpane he was being fooled by Flowers’ well-known framing abilities. The Braves’ catcher just wanted Contreras to get back in the batter’s box.
William Contreras, who was recently promoted to Double-A Mississippi, is the Braves’ No. 6 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The Braves believe the 21-year-old catcher has the tools to be as successful as his older brother.
But during the brief time they have shared with William during Spring Training, the Braves have gained the sense he has a more relaxed, less-agitating personality than Willson.
“William, from what we saw in Spring Training, was kind of quiet,” Teheran said. “Even when he was talking to the Latin guys, he was kind of quiet and nice. I don’t see Willson that way. He’s kind of different. But every guy is different when it’s game time. You get an attitude, and I respect that. As long as you don’t disrespect the other guy or the other team, I’m fine with it.”
This latest incident with Willson Contreras accounted for just a fraction of the frustrations the Braves experienced on the way to suffering just their fourth loss in their past 17 games. They tallied just two unearned runs during Jon Lester’s six-inning performance and watched Teheran endure a second consecutive ugly start.
Teheran did not retire any of the six batters he faced during the decisive five-run fifth. The veteran hurler has allowed 17 hits and 13 earned runs over his past eight innings. That follows a stretch that saw him post a 0.81 ERA over eight starts.
Just as Teheran will return to the mound next week looking to put these past two starts behind him, Contreras will move on from this incident. But there’s certainly no guarantee this will be the last time he agitates some of the guys his younger brother might eventually call teammates.
“I have nothing against that team,” Contreras said. “They have a really good team. But, I've got to do things for my team, too. I think that set the tone of the game. After that happens, we all went to get out there to battle and win this ballgame.”