CHICAGO -- The Cubs will be without All-Star catcher Willson Contreras for four weeks, but his recent right hamstring injury should not be severe enough to cost him a shot at contributing down the stretch or potentially on the October stage.
But Contreras is frustrated nonetheless with being forced to miss time for the second time in three seasons while the Cubs are pushing for another National League Central title. Contreras underwent an MRI exam on Monday, which he said revealed a Grade 2 strain. He likely won’t be able to perform any activity until the second week of his recovery, when he said he will likely be able to begin jogging.
“I’m going to take it slow. I’m not going to rush it,” Contreras said before Monday’s game against the Athletics.
“The guys on the team know I can’t control this, what’s happening, but I can control how good I can do my recovery. ... I’ve got to be smart about it. I’m not going to rush it, and by the time I get back, I’m going to be 100 percent.”
While Contreras is sidelined, Victor Caratini will serve as Chicago's starting catcher. The Cubs promoted Taylor Davis from Triple-A Iowa on Sunday to fill in as the reserve option following Contreras' placement on the 10-day injured list. General manager Jed Hoyer said Monday that he and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein will need to be creative if they plan to pursue any options outside of the current roster.
In the seventh inning of Sunday's 4-1 win over the Brewers, Contreras injured the hamstring only a few steps out of the batter's box on a lineout to center field. The catcher avoided putting weight on the leg on his way up the first-base line and then walked slowly off the field.
Contreras said he knew something was wrong as soon as he left the batter’s box and that he hadn’t felt any discomfort before that. Contreras experienced a similar hamstring injury in 2017, which also forced him to miss a month. He said he expects the recovery period to be very similar. The biggest frustration for Contreras is the care he shows his body to prevent such injuries.
“This shouldn’t happen,” he said.
In 87 games this season, Contreras has batted .275 with 19 home runs, 57 RBIs and an .890 OPS, and he was voted the National League's starting catcher for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row.
Last month, the Cubs acquired veteran catcher Martin Maldonado from the Royals for left-hander Mike Montgomery when Contreras landed on the injured list with a right foot strain, but the team dealt Maldonado to the Astros on Wednesday in exchange for utility man Tony Kemp. Chicago is expected to look for additional catching depth, but teams are limited to Minor League trades, free-agent signings and waiver claims now, following the elimination of Major League waiver trades in August.
Hoyer said he and Epstein were finding it difficult to keep three catchers -- Contreras, Caratini and Maldonado -- happy in terms of playing time. Now, the front office will “scour” all available players and attempt to piece things together. Both Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon said left fielder Kyle Schwarber could be used as an emergency option at catcher, his position in college and in the Minor Leagues.
“Our depth is tested, there’s no doubt,” Hoyer said. “It’s not the best timing for an injury, a couple of days into August, but that’s the game and there’s no sympathy, and so we need to figure it out.”
As disappointed as Contreras is, he is attempting to take the injury in stride. He said he will be his teammates’ biggest cheerleader.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Contreras said. “I feel bad because I want to be out there with my team. ... They know they have my support.”