Contreras back, Thompson to IL; Ross

Manager 'bored out of his mind' at home with COVID-19

September 4th, 2021

CHICAGO -- was activated from the 10-day injured list and inserted behind the plate for Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Pirates after spending the past three weeks on the IL.

Contreras was put on the shelf on Aug. 12 when he sprained his right knee during blocking drills. The veteran catcher worked his way back to resuming full baseball activities in the ensuing weeks, and he started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday. In three games with Iowa, the catcher went 2-for-11 with two solo home runs.

“He's a big part of our club, obviously, and adds a huge presence, both behind the plate and at the plate,” Cubs acting manager Andy Green said. “Anytime you get one of your absolute best back in the lineup, that's fun for all of us.”

With just four weeks remaining in the regular season and Chicago not in the postseason hunt, the club’s ultimate goal is ensuring Contreras stays healthy through the end of the year. Green said the plan is for him to get regular rest in September. With the Cubs carrying two backup catchers in Robinson Chirinos and Austin Romine on the 28-man active roster, making sure Contreras’ knee isn’t overworked shouldn’t be a challenge.

“He feels good, he feels ready to go, so we're gonna just move forward expecting him to be good,” Green said. “He'll get days off, especially regularly here early. Rossy [Cubs manager David Ross] is going to make those lineups out, and I think a lot of that early on will be to make sure Willson's put in a position to be successful in the game and in the future as well.”

Because there were no open spots on the active roster, Chicago was forced to make a roster move to bring Contreras to the big league club. Rookie starter was placed on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation.

Green said he believes the inflammation in Thompson’s throwing shoulder is something that “just popped up” following his start on Thursday. Thompson was pulled after throwing 54 pitches in 1 2/3 against Pittsburgh.

According to Baseball Savant, the average velocity on his fastball was nearly 2 mph lower than his season average, which had also been an issue in his previous two starts. In addition to Thompson admitting to having difficulties with his mechanics and control, the drop in velocity likely played some part in the decision to put him on the IL.

“I think as we've emerged from that game, just some shoulder fatigue for him,” Green said. “Nothing that I'm gathering from talking to Rossy and [pitching coach] Tommy [Hottovy] and the trainers is in the 'too serious' category, but it doesn't make sense not to proceed with an abundance of caution right now and make sure that he's good for the long haul.”

No timetable has been set for Thompson, but because the last month of the season was supposed to be an extended audition for the rotation, the hope is that shutting him down now will allow him to finish the year pitching for the Cubs.

“Hopefully, he pitches again for us this year. I think that's the anticipation and the hope right now, but we're just going to take care of him as much as possible,” Green said. “That's a decision that's above me. That's Rossy and Tommy and the trainers and those guys talking.”

“We're trying to figure things out on the fly right now. You don't get down to the Speaker of the House-type conversation very often, of who takes over if the President is out. … There's enough really intelligent people in that dugout. No matter how far we get down the pecking order, there's someone in there that can make good decisions and put guys in a position to succeed.” -- Green, on not knowing who stepped in to manage the last three innings of Friday’s 6-5 win after his ejection.

“I did talk to Rossy today. He wanted you guys to know the only symptom he has right now that he can't overcome is late-night snacking. He said he's bored out of his mind.” -- Green, on Ross’ “symptoms” update following the manager's positive COVID-19 test on Friday morning.