For now, Cubs committed to keeping three catchers


For now, Cubs committed to keeping three catchers

ST. LOUIS – The three-catcher experiment has worked out as well as the Cubs could have expected – solid production and no outward signs of jealousy or complaining through the media.

But the timing still probably isn’t right for the Cubs to deal Welington Castillo. That didn’t stop Twitter from trying to connect the dots after Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan fractured his right pinkie over the weekend and got moved to the 60-day disabled list.

[MORE - Cubs U: Maddon's bunch still learning how to win]

Theo Epstein’s front office obviously has a deep understanding of the Boston system after all that time working at Fenway Park.

“There’s typically not a lot of trade talk this time of year,” Epstein said before Monday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. “(It’s) more check-in-type phone calls than anything else.

“Usually this time of year, if (teams) have needs, they look to internal solutions first.”

The Red Sox are turning to Blake Swihart, a blue-chip prospect who’s reportedly been viewed as untouchable in the Cole Hamels talks with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Unless you count Kyle Schwarber at Double-A Tennessee – and that’s probably a reach at this point – the Cubs don’t have that much immediate catching help available in the next levels of their organization.

That’s why manager Joe Maddon pushed for the Cubs to carry three catchers on their Opening Day roster, with Castillo stuck behind quasi-everyday guy Miguel Montero and David Ross, Jon Lester’s personal catcher. Cubs catchers entered Monday leading the National League with a combined .842 OPS.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

“Right now, it helps us win games, in addition to being a real nice sort of security blanket guarding against a potential injury,” Epstein said. “Joe lobbied for it and he’s used it tactically to his advantage. It’s also given guys rest to maybe allow them to perform a little bit better than if they were playing a lot more.

“In Miggy’s case, he’s traditionally been a guy who’s been at the plate every single day. Here, he’s getting a little bit of rest and maybe that will pay dividends over the course of the full season. Wely’s proven to be a dangerous pinch-hitter. He’s come up big in some crucial situations. It’s a great feeling to have Ross here as Lester rounds his way into good form.

“It’s a nice group that complements each other well. I think it works on this roster as opposed to being a hindrance.”

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020


Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

Baseball fans will be more protected than ever at Wrigley Field this season.

Saturday, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney announced the club is extending protective netting at Wrigley Field to the elbows of the ballpark. Essentially, it will stretch a bit past where the old on-field bullpens were and stop before the walls in the left and right field corners.

Kenney added the extensions will be ready by Opening Day.

Last month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced all 30 ballparks will extend their netting for the 2020 season. Manfred didn’t specify which teams would do what, but he said netting at each stadium would extend “substantially beyond the end of the dugout.”

With pitchers throwing harder than ever and batter exit velocities are through the roof, fans have little time to react in the stands when a ball is launched their way. It’s nearly impossible to avoid getting hit, even for those paying attention.

The Cubs have experienced this firsthand. In a game against the Astros last season, an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball struck a 2-year-old at Minute Maid Park. That young girl has a permanent brain injury, her family’s attorney announced earlier this month, an injury that affects her body similar to how a stroke would.

Almora was visibly shaken after the incident and said Friday at Cubs Convention it weighed heavily on him for the first couple of days.

“After that I had no other choice but to move forward,” Almora said. “But I always have that in the back of my mind. Every update that does come up, I am on there and I am seeing all of this."

Almora said he’s tried reaching out to the family but is respecting their privacy. As a father of two himself, he said there’s no reason to even think of his sons getting hurt while attending a game.

“Obviously prayers go out to the family. It’s unfortunate, and like I said before, that should never happen on a baseball field."

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