Slowly but surely, the Cubs lineup is progressing towards full strength.
Thursday, the Cubs announced that catcher Willson Contreras will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Friday. Contreras is expected to catch 2-3 innings, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian.
Willson Contreras will begin a Minor League rehab assignment with AAA Iowa on Friday. Plan is to have him catch 2-3 innings and get a couple at-bats.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 29, 2019
Contreras exited Aug. 3’s game against the Brewers, coming up limp while running out a flyball to center field. The Cubs placed him on the 10-day injured list Aug. 4 with a right hamstring strain, announcing a 4-6-week timeline for the 27-year-old’s recovery. He strained the same hamstring in 2017, missing one month.
Ahead of Thursday's game against the Mets, Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters that Contreras' rehab assignment will last about one week. This would put Contreras in line to return ahead of next weekend's four-game set against the Brewers, almost exactly one month after he hit the injured list.
Contreras will spend about a week at Triple-A. Rehab will include postseason play down there— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) August 29, 2019
Contreras’ injury came at an unfortunate time for the Cubs, who traded catcher Martin Maldonado on July 31 — less than two weeks after acquiring the latter from the Royals. Plus, with the MLB’s new trade deadline rules, the Cubs couldn’t trade for an MLB catcher through the waiver wire.
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Thus, the Cubs were temporarily left with Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis as the only big-league caliber catchers on the 40-man roster. The Cubs picked up Jonathan Lucroy in free agency on Aug. 8, though, giving them three solid catching options come September.
Contreras’ return will offer the Cubs a major boost, both offensively and defensively. Not only is he hitting .275/.365/.525, with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs this season, but he controls the run game behind the plate, too. Plus, with the eventual returns of Anthony Rizzo (mid-back tightness) and Ben Zobrist (restricted list), the Cubs could roll out one formidable lineup come September.
Rizzo won't be rushed back, of course, and Zobrist won't be counted on as a savior for the Cubs' inconsistent offense. Still, getting the trio back is a positive step for the Cubs as they push for the NL Central crown.
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