ST. LOUIS -- After Willson Contreras hit two home runs in a Spring Training game on March 27, Jonathan Lester joked that it was about time he got an offensive catcher. On Sunday night, Contreras flexed his muscles again.Contreras hit a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning, but it
ST. LOUIS -- After Willson Contreras hit two home runs in a Spring Training game on March 27, Jonathan Lester joked that it was about time he got an offensive catcher. On Sunday night, Contreras flexed his muscles again.
Contreras hit a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning, but it wasn't enough as the Cardinals edged the Cubs, 4-3, in the season opener at Busch Stadium.
"It was a great at-bat," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Contreras' homer off closer Seunghwan Oh. "The ball jumped right there. We know he's a force behind the plate and at the plate. I thought he had a nice day."
Contreras, who finished with six homers this spring, was able to watch some video during the game to help his timing.
"I struck out the first two at-bats, but I never lost my confidence," Contreras said. "After I struck out the second time, I came up to watch video and I was overswinging a little bit. I told myself to be short to the ball because [Carlos Martinez] was throwing 94, 98, 99, 100 [mph] and he had movement. That's why I had a little bit of success."
This is a big season for Contreras, promoted in mid-June last year and now the Cubs' No. 1 catcher. He is replacing Lester's personal catcher David Ross, who retired after last season and now can be seen on "Dancing With the Stars." Lester gave up one run over five-plus innings, striking out seven. How did Contreras feel his first real game with Lester went?
"It was amazing," Contreras said. "We did pretty good. He did pretty good. ... The cutter was good today, the sinker worked pretty good and the changeup was amazing. All his pitches were working today, and we used them."
Aledmys Diaz did steal two bases against Lester and Contreras in the third inning, but the catcher expects to improve in that area as the season progresses.
"On Diaz, I rushed a little bit, and that's why I couldn't get the ball out," Contreras said. "That was my first time with Jon, and I'm going to learn from him."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.