Contreras takes BP, catches bullpen session

July 20th, 2019

CHICAGO -- did not want to go on the injured list, and he does not want to remain sidelined more than required. The Cubs catcher showed off how good he is feeling on Saturday morning, when he checked off a number of tasks in the sweltering heat that overtook Wrigley Field.

Contreras -- on the 10-day IL with a right foot issue -- went through a full round of batting practice on the field and then strapped on his catcher's gear and caught ' bullpen session. After completing some running and agility drills in the outfield, Contreras politely declined an interview because he had more work to complete with the team's training staff.

"Busy day!" said Contreras, as he headed down the dugout steps.

Contreras will be eligible to come off the IL on Wednesday, when the Cubs are in San Francisco to wrap up a three-game series with the Giants. With an off-day on Thursday, it is possible that Chicago delays his activation until Friday's series opener in Milwaukee. The Cubs have not yet announced their plans.

No matter which day Contreras officially returns, the Cubs will have to make a decision on their catching situation. At the moment, Chicago is divvying up the innings behind the plate between (Contreras' primary backup all season) and (acquired via trade from the Royals on Monday). The Cubs will have to determine whether carrying three catchers is feasible.

The only thing that is clear right now is that Contreras is itching to return.

"I talked to him [Friday]," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He was like chirpy. He's feeling pretty good."

Maddon acknowledged that the IL stint for Contreras could be beneficial not only to allow the catcher's foot to heal, but to provide him with rest ahead of the final two months and potentially the playoffs. Contreras has caught 1,723 innings across the 2018-19 seasons -- the second-highest total in the Majors in that span. The catcher led MLB in innings caught (1,109 2/3) last year.

"We're going to find out, but I would think [the rest will help], absolutely," Maddon said. "He's going to be a force when he shows up again. Like I've said, he's feeling pretty good right now. With a catcher like that that plays a lot, the rest is always advantageous. But, I'm telling you, man, he's going to be ready to roll pretty soon."

Hamels throws off mound

Hamels completed a bullpen session on Saturday morning with no issues, but the next step for the pitcher has not been announced by the Cubs. Earlier this week, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said a simulated game or Minor League rehab assignment was likely the next test for Hamels.

"He's just progressing well," Maddon said Saturday.

Due to the Cubs having off-days looming on Thursday and July 29, Chicago has some flexibility in how it aligns its rotation over the next few series. The Cubs will need a fifth starter in San Francisco (Alec Mills will start on Monday) and again on Aug. 3 against the Brewers. Barring any setbacks, Hamels might be in line to come off the IL for that game against Milwaukee.

Worth noting

• Left fielder has not started since Tuesday. Maddon noted that Wednesday was a scheduled day off for Schwarber, and the outfielder was on Chicago's bench on Friday and Saturday due to San Diego starting a left-handed pitcher. Maddon noted that he is trying to get players like Albert Almora Jr., David Bote and Addison Russell back on track against lefties right now.

"It's pretty simple actually," Maddon said. "As we move it forward, it may change. But, for right now, coming out in this second half, I've talked about it [Friday], we've got to get these guys going. And they're not going to get going just by taking batting practice. You've got to get them out there."

• Maddon gave Robel Garcia -- a second baseman by trade -- a start in left field on Saturday. Garcia has been taking grounders at third base and working on outfield drills lately in an effort to increase his versatility.

"I think it's interesting to find out if he can do this," Maddon said. "It could really be beneficial for us and for him, so we're going to take a look at it today. He's been working with [first-base and outfield coach Will Venable] the last several days."

• Right-hander (60-day IL, right elbow) threw a live batting practice session on Thursday at the team's complex in Arizona. There remains no established timetable for Morrow's return.

• Left-hander (10-day IL, left wrist) is no longer on the Triple-A Iowa roster. He was pulled off his rehab assignment due to arm soreness.