Some great news on the injury recovery front for the Cubs, who could soon have their starting catcher back.
Willson Contreras has been out since August 11 with a hamstring strain, but Joe Maddon says the 25-year-old is “really close” to being ready to go (CSN). Contreras is able to catch and run without issue, and the training staff believes he’s not at any risk of re-injury (not more than anyone else, that is).
The plan, then, would be to get Contreras some game activity soon (Cubs.com). The minor league seasons are over, however, as Luke pointed out this morning, and only the playoffs remain. Fortunately, the Cubs will have some options on that front, as the AZL Cubs, the Eugene Emeralds, and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are all playing in the postseason this week. Your best bet for a Contreras sighting would be on Wednesday, when the Pelicans open up their first postseason round against the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston, North Carolina. (Sorry, Wood Ducks.)
Contreras’s recovery has been quite speedy, as he’s just three weeks into a four to six-week estimated recovery time. If he’s able to play in games later this week, and then return to the big league team soon thereafter, he might have made it back on the very short end of that original estimate.
In Contreras’s absence, the Cubs have leaned primarily on Alex Avila and Rene Rivera, who’ve performed quite well overall. Rivera is hitting .304/.385/.478 (128 wRC+) in his 26 plate appearances with the Cubs, and Alex Avila has hit .250/.377/.422 (115) since the Cubs got him in a deadline deal. With both in tow (together with Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis), the Cubs will have some additional bats they can use off of the bench after Contreras returns, without fear of being stuck without a backup catcher late in games.
Of course, Contreras had been the Cubs’ hottest hitter when he went down, and is hitting .274/.342/.519 (121) overall on the year.