CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has consistently praised Willson Contreras for the catcher's increasing level of maturity both on the field and behind the scenes this season. It was no surprise, then, that Contreras was understanding about Chicago's decision to place him on the injured list on Tuesday.
How would Maddon have handled that type of conversation with Contreras a couple years ago?
"In a padded room," the manager quipped.
Prior to Tuesday's 4-3, 10-inning win over the Reds, the Cubs officially placed Contreras on the 10-day IL (retroactive to Sunday) with a right foot strain and recalled right-hander Alec Mills from Triple-A Iowa to start against Cincinnati. Chicago also added catcher Martín Maldonado to the active roster after acquiring him from the Royals late Monday night in exchange for left-hander Mike Montgomery.
Contreras said Tuesday that he met with a specialist, who said the issue on the underside of his right foot was just bruising. That said, the Cubs' medical team felt an IL stint for Contreras was the appropriate approach given his importance to the team and due to the risk of having the minor injury morph into something more serious without a proper rest period.
The current plan is for Contreras to receive treatment over the next couple of days before resuming baseball activities as early as Friday.
"We had to explain the whole thing to him, because he's feeling pretty good," Maddon said. "And the concern was that the doctors thought, had we let him go, that it could turn into something worse. But, when you're feeling good and you're young, it's hard to wrap your mind around those thoughts. But, he eventually did. I love the guy. I love his tenacity. I love everything about it."
Contreras -- who is batting .286 with 19 homers, 55 RBIs and a .947 OPS in 78 games this season -- said it took him a moment to come to terms with the idea of taking time off.
"I said, 'I don't feel that they need to,'" Contreras said. "But, when I calmed down, I started thinking like, 'OK, we're still in July.' So, if we treat this right, right now, I don't want to be worried about it later in the season. That's what I'm looking forward to. I'm going to be back healthy for the whole season."
Contreras paused and cracked a smile.
"It seems weird for me talking that way, but I have to," he added. "I've been learning. I've been learning to take things one day at a time."
Maldonado was on his way to meet with Mills when the veteran catcher opted to first get his initial interview with the Chicago media out of the way. He also had plans to sit down with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and Mike Borzello, the Cubs' associate pitching, catching and strategy coach, to pore over plans for facing the Reds.
On his first day with the Cubs, Maldonado was in the starting lineup and ready to tackle whatever Chicago wanted to throw his way. The catcher said he was grateful to be joining the Cubs, who are in the thick of a division race with the goal of contending for a World Series crown.
"That's why you play this game, is to go out there and every game counts," he said. "I'm glad that's what this team is doing right now."
Maldonado went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, but he was involved in what proved to be an important out, tagging Nick Senzel at the plate on Jose Peraza's RBI double to end the frame and limit the Reds to three runs.
Maldonado said that he had a feeling that the Royals would be trading him before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"It wasn't a surprise," Maldonado said. "They told me. Kansas City was open with me and said that they'd keep me posted on everything that was going on. I got the call [Monday] morning about possibly coming here. I'm just looking forward."
Can Cubs carry three catchers?
Until Contreras' return, Maddon will divvy up the innings behind the plate between Maldonado and Victor Caratini, who will start on Wednesday afternoon. But, when Contreras is deemed ready for activation, the Cubs will need to decide whether it is feasible to carry three catchers.
Maddon said the Cubs have not made a firm decision on that front.
"We'd have to parcel out the work in a manner that satisfies all of them, which would not be easy," Maddon said. "But, it also would open up pinch-hitting opportunities for guys in a good matchup situation also. We haven't decided exactly. We've talked about that a little bit, but it's hard to not acquire Martin Maldonado if he's available."
"I've already had four texts from people I really respect about him and how much they love him. And beyond that, the kind of influence he is in the clubhouse with his peers. Conversationally, that came through. I mean, I just walked into the video room and he's in there talking to Borzy and Tommy and it's like, 'Whoa.' He handles himself extremely well." --Maddon, on Maldonado