(CBS) Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will start when his team hosts the Mets on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, manager Joe Maddon said in his weekly radio hit on 670 The Score.
It will be Contreras’ first start since Aug. 9, when he suffered a hamstring pull while running out a ground ball in San Francisco. Contreras pinch-hit against the Brewers on Sunday, when he was activated.
Contreras will bat cleanup for the Cubs, who sorely are in need of a big bat after scoring just 16 runs in their past eight games. Contreras won’t play nine innings, Maddon said, because the Cubs want to ease him back after his long stretch off.
“Can’t go nine, he’s not stretched out to nine,” Maddon said. “But we’ll try to figure it out. He’s going to hit four, like he had in the past. That’s the other thing about it, when you look at the lineup and we were going really good there for a while, Willson was in that four hole.”
Maddon called Contreras’ bat speed “great” in his pinch-hit appearance Sunday even though he struck out. He also wanted to temper initial expectations for Contreras.
“I have no idea what it’s going to look like tonight, but we still got to break him back in slowly,” Maddon said.
“The expectation component of it, just let him go play. Just go play Willson, work your regular at-bats.”
Contreras is hitting .274 with 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .859 OPS this season. Maddon indicated the Cubs are comfortable starting him on back-to-back days but not in three straight games.
There are also “split opinions” within the Cubs whether it’s a good idea for Contreras to be used in left field the rest of the season, Maddon said, because of “concern about distance and running and breaks and how it might be more severe in the outfield as opposed to catching.” It’s a position Contreras has played at times when Maddon wants to take advantage of matchups and/or get Alex Avila a start behind the plate.
“As he gets farther away from the injury, probably more likely that he can play out there,” Maddon said.
Kyle Schwarber will also start Tuesday, Maddon added.