Joe Maddon didn't channel Bill Belichick with some "no days off!" chant before Saturday's 7-3 win over the Washington Nationals, but it's clear Willson Contreras will get no rest right now.
As Maddon wrote out the lineup against former Cub Edwin Jackson and the Washington Nationals, he wanted to get newly-acquired veteran catcher Alex Avila behind the plate, but knew he couldn't take the red-hot Contreras out of the lineup.
So Contreras started in left field for only the third time this season and hit in his now-usual cleanup spot in the lineup behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as the Cubs look to snap a three-game skid.
The plan worked out perfectly as Contreras drove in a run in the first on a swinging bunt before Avila hit a two-run shot. Contreras later added a two-run blast of his own in the sixth inning to give the Cubs some much-needed insurance.
The 25-year-old rising star has been an absolute monster since the All-Star Break, hitting .370 with a 1.141 OPS, eight homers and 27 RBI in 21 second-half games.
Contreras woke up on the morning of June 18 hitting only .244 with a .708 OPS, five homers and 28 RBI. After another big game Saturday, he's now hitting .279 with an .861 OPS, 19 homers and 68 RBI.
He's driven in 40 runs and crushed 14 homers in a stretch of only 39 games. That's a next-level hot streak, especially for a catcher.
"You can't deny what he's doing right now," Maddon said, admitting Contreras has joined the ranks of the elite catchers in the game. "I don't want him to be impacted and start thinking differently, but he is playing at that level. Who's playing better than that at that position?
"A combination of everything considered, it's not just the hitting — controlling the running game, the blocking, the energy that he provides every day. ... Yep, he's one of the best right now."
Any talk of Contreras joining the NL MVP race is premature, though "The Willson Contreras Game" Thursday helped put him on the map nationally, even if the Cubs wound up losing that contest.
Contreras is the "f--king Energizer Bunny" and said he has no issues bringing that intensity and energy level to the field on a daily basis.
But the Cubs are also focused on making sure he doesn't run himself into the ground, acquiring Avila in part to save Contreras from himself.
Just last week, Maddon was asked if he would ever give Contreras a start in left field to keep his bat in the lineup while still giving him a breather from the demanding physical tolls of catcher.
At the time, the Cubs field general didn't dismiss it, but he admitted it would be a tricky spot to tell guys like Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay or Albert Almora Jr. they won't get a chance to play because the team needs to move their catcher out to the outfield.
But Saturday became that situation for Maddon and the Cubs as Schwarber takes a seat on the bench despite hitting .261 with a .911 OPS over the last month since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
Almora also remains on the bench, having not drawn a start since Tuesday against Arizona. But his splits are pretty jarring (.343 AVG, .961 OPS vs. LHPs compared to .235/.582 vs. RHPs) and the young outfielder figures to get plenty of playing time during the upcoming week in San Francisco as the Cubs are slated to face a trio of southpaws in Matt Moore, Ty Blach and Madison Bumgarner.
With the Cubs facing something of a "must-win" game Saturday, there was simply no Way Contreras could be out of the lineup, even if it means he won't get another day off until later next week if everything plays right.
"He's swinging the bat way too well," Maddon said. "I gotta get Alex in there. You look at what's happening: Jonny Lester's going [Sunday] — that's Willson — and then there comes a bunch of lefties in San Francisco — that's Willson.
"So we needed to get Alex some at-bats and have him play and so with that, it's really difficult to take Willson Contreras' bat out of the lineup right now."