Is Willson Contreras' power showing up just in the nick of time for Cubs?


Is Willson Contreras' power showing up just in the nick of time for the Cubs?

The catcher who started the All-Star Game, homered in his first at-bat in the Midsummer Classic and has been tabbed as the best catcher on the planet both by himself and his manager hit his first longball in two months Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. 

Contreras' two-run shot to left field in the fifth inning of the Cubs' 10-5 victory may not have quite cleared the fence (replays showed it may have hit off the edge of the Wrigley Field basket), but the play was not reviewed and the home run stood.

More importantly, the ball came off Contreras' bat at 111.6 mph two innings after the young catcher hit a liner 107.3 mph to left field that was caught. Throw in a walk and it was a pretty successful day for Contreras at the plate while he managed 9 different pitchers and caught all 9 innings behind the plate. Contreras back offensively?

"That would be nice," Joe Maddon admitted. "The ball came off hot. He looked really good at the plate. He looked simple, he looked on time, the ball was coming off hot. That's what we've seen over the last couple years. It was really familiar. 

"We get that rolling right there, that could make a huge difference."

Maddon's absolutely right. 

Remember, this is the guy who hit 21 homers and drove in 74 runs in only 117 games last year. Contreras has proven he can singlehandedly carry an offense when he's locked in at the plate.

It's only one game, of course, but each game is magnified this time of year. Getting Contreras at least partially back to his 2016-17 form would be a huge boon to this Cubs lineup the day before October hits.

There have been several moments recently where Cubs fans have asked the question, "Is Contreras back?" and it hasn't quite played out yet. He hit a couple of rockets two days in a row earlier this month against the Reds (the ball he didn't run out initially) and then against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
Contreras has gotten plenty of rest down the stretch as Maddon has opted for Victor Caratini behind the plate more recently, so that could help Contreras feel fresher after being utilized heavily for the first five months of the season.

He's also made an adjustment in the batter's box, backing off the plate in an effort to counteract how teams have been hammering him with pitches inside. He admitted it's been an adjustment to get used to what is essentially a new perspective on the strike zone up there, but said he feels free now.

Contreras insisted the homer did not take weight off his shoulders but anytime a player goes homer-less from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, it has to have at least some of a mental effect.

"I'm not putting pressure on myself to hit homers," he said. "If they go, they go. If they don't, they don't. I can't control that. the only thing that I can control is the pitch that I pick to swing at and the good contact that I make. 

"...I know that I haven't hit enough homers this season, but things happen and you have to be able to forget about that and help your team in any way. That's one thing I've put my focus on — having an OK season offensively, but defensively, having a great season behind the plate, especially getting to know a lot of new pitchers that we had in the second half.

"I feel proud of myself and proud of my team."

Contact Us