Cubs

MLB suspends Willson Contreras for two games after ejection; appeal filed

MLB suspends Willson Contreras for two games after ejection; appeal filed

Willson Contreras is facing a two-game suspension from Major League Baseball for his actions Friday at Wrigley Field.

Contreras filed an appeal and he is in the lineup Saturday for an important game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Depending on how long the MLB takes to process the appeal, Contreras may also be able to play in Sunday's game.

"We'll just wait for the appeal to work its way through," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We haven't decided anything beyond that. We'll abide by that, try to figure it out and make the best of it."

The young catcher was thrown out of Friday's game in the fifth inning after he and John Lackey exploded on home plate umpire Jordan Baker following a blown strike three call. 

Immediately after the call, Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez lined an RBI single to right center to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead. 

As Lackey ran in to cover home on the play, he was thrown out. Contreras was thrown out a few seconds later and slammed his catcher's mask down in frustration. The mask bounced and hit Baker, which Contreras insisted was accidental and apologized for after the game.

Does it help that Contreras was contrite about the incident after the game?

"I would hope so," Maddon said. "He was. Listen, he's a wonderful young man. He is emotional. We're all working on attempting to help him curb that a bit. But you don't want to take it all away either. That's a big part of why he's so good. That was a little bit difficult yesterday; I understand that. He does play with his hair on fire."

It was that mask incident that weighed heavily on the MLB's decision to suspend Contreras. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

Lackey only received a fine and did not make contact with Baker at all.

Maddon and the Cubs are trying to reign in Contreras' emotional style a bit, but they also love the passion in which he plays the game, so they're not trying to go too far in the other direction and lose what makes him so good as a ballplayer. But moving forward, the Cubs know it's important Contreras picks his spots, especially given how important the relationship between catcher and home plate umpire is.

"You're a catcher man, you're working in front of these guys all the time," Maddon said. "Listen, I really believe you're gonna see a nice progression of him. He's still gonna get upset at times. But you're still gonna see a nice progression of him not go from 0-to-60 like that.

"Like I said though, there's a part of it I do like. Just the fact that he does play with that emotion, we love that. But there's a way to curb that a bit. I think as he gets older, he'll do that."

Maddon admitted Friday was a learning experience for the dynamic backstop, but the Cubs manager also made sure to point out Contreras' upbringing in Venezuela and how he wasn't playing baseball in America full-time until 2011.

"We didn't come from where he came from, either," Maddon said. "What's going on in that country right now, it's a different method. To walk a mile — even a hundred feet, a hundred yards in his shoes — I've never done that. So I think it's my responsibilty, our responsibility to continue to talk to him to explain why it's probably a better method to not.

"To still be able to play with that kind of passion and enthusiasm, but when it comes to that moment, let the breathing part get away, walk away, turn your back. Those kinds of things are the kinds of things we're gonna have to get incorporated over the next several years. But, I love his passion. I love his emotion. I love all that stuff. Just with the maturation process, you'll see it come back a little bit."

Are Maddon and the Cubs coaches trying to corral Lackey's temper at all?

"That's impossible," Maddon said. "Willson's in his early 20s. Johnny's almost 40. He's a dad with kids. I would never tell him what to do."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below:

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Everyone wants to know when the Cubs are going to add another starting pitcher. Fewer folks want to talk about the one they've already signed this offseason.

Kyle Hendricks, though, is happy to talk about Tyler Chatwood.

Chatwood might not be a big name like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, and the former Colorado Rockie wasn't brought on to fill the Arrieta-sized hole in the Cubs' rotation, instead projected to slide behind the current top three of Jon Lester, Hendricks and Jose Quintana.

But whether he's the fourth starter or the fifth starter — depending on what kind of starting pitcher the Cubs add to the roster before spring training — how Chatwood performs could go a long way in determining what kind of season it is for the Cubs.

Hendricks, talking Friday during the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, thinks Chatwood will thrive on the North Side.

"Chatwood, I think, is going to be really big for us," Hendricks said. "We grew up in the same area, so I played summer baseball with him senior year, and he wasn't even pitching then, he was a shortstop, great hitter. But he's just a baseball guy, baseball mind, and that's kind of what this team's about. It's a bunch of guys who love playing the game, love being together. I think he's going to fit in great, personality-wise.

"And the stuff he has, I know it's going to play really well. He's only had a couple starts at Wrigley, but he's obviously pitched well there. That's going to bode well for him in the future. And being able to pick guys' brains, like Lester and these older guys that have been around. I think they're going to help him like they've helped me."

Depending on how much they trust Hendricks' scouting eye, that might ease the concerns of Cubs fans nervous about the prospect of replacing Arrieta and John Lackey with Chatwood and Mike Montgomery in the starting rotation. Last season, Chatwood's 15 losses were the most in the National League, and he finished the season with a 4.69 ERA. But the numbers were dramatically different thanks to Coors Field being his home ballpark. In Denver, his ERA was 6.01. On the road, it was a far more respectable 3.49.

"It's not easy. I'll leave it at that, it's not easy," Chatwood said Friday of pitching in the Mile High City. "I enjoyed my time there, but I'm excited to be here."

As Hendricks mentioned, Chatwood's transition to Wrigley seems promising. Chatwood has started a pair of games on the North Side and fared really well, surrendering just one run with 11 strikeouts in his 13 innings of work.

The Cubs have made it to three straight NL Championship Series — and won that curse-smashing World Series championship in 2016 — thanks to elite starting pitching. Arrieta was the Cy Young winner in 2015. Lester and Hendricks were Cy Young finalists in 2016. And Quintana has extraordinary promise if he can replicate what he did on the South Side in a Cubs uniform. If Arrieta lands anywhere but the North Side by the time this slow-moving offseason finally wraps up, Chatwood will be leaned on to help keep the Cubs' starting staff among the most formidable in the game. If he does, then 2018 could end like 2016 did. And that's what Chatwood wants.

"Obviously it's a great organization and a great team that I want to be a part of. I want to be on a winning team, so it was a pretty easy decision," Chatwood said. "I want to win one of those and be a part of that parade they had two years ago. I'm excited and hoping we've got a chance to do that."