Cubs notebook: Contreras rounding into form, HBPs keep coming, next steps for pitchers
While the Cubs offense as a whole is still working to get on track this season, it looks like Willson Contreras is rounding into form.
The All-Star catcher was a bright spot for the Cubs during Friday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the Braves at Wrigley Field. Contreras was hit by a pitch again (what else is new?) and crushed another monster home run into the teeth of the wind.
111.2 MPH through the wind 💪 pic.twitter.com/XDeNOvbSXm— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 16, 2021
It’s the second straight game with both a hit by pitch and homer for Contreras and he also added a single in the 7th inning. His season slash line is now up to .257/.413/.514. That’s a .927 OPS from the Cubs’ 2-hole hitter.
Apparently it’s not just the Brewers.
On a day where the Cubs dealt with suspensions from this week’s tension in Milwaukee, the Chicago hitters once again found themselves plunked at an alarming rate.
Braves starter Kyle Wright hit four Cubs batters in Friday’s game, including Javy Báez twice. Contreras and pinch-hitter Matt Duffy also wore one for their team.
The Cubs have now been hit 65 times since the start of last season, which is 11 more than the next-closest team (Mets — 54).
Barring a setback, Kyle Hendricks will start Sunday’s series finale against the Braves.
The Cubs ace was scratched last minute Tuesday night in Milwaukee after reporting to the team that he felt under the weather. As COVID impacted the bullpen and coaching staff, the Cubs wanted to play it safe with Hendricks and chose to send him home to Chicago.
But all has been well in the days since then and Hendricks should be back on the mound this weekend.
“Everybody’s tests have been negative up to this point,” David Ross said. “He’s feeling better and he’ll be scheduled to start on Sunday if everything is trending right with him and his health.”
COVID in the rearview?
As Ross stated, the tests have continued to come back negative on Cubs players after first base coach Craig Driver and bullpen coach Chris Young tested positive a few days ago.
It’s been a wild week for a team that did not have to deal with this kind of COVID situation all last season. But Ross and Co. believe the recent speed bump may now be in the rearview mirror.
“It feels like a little breath of fresh air after getting all the tests back,” Ross said. “All the signs are pointing in the positive direction, which is nice. Being extra cautious — which our medical staff is — makes a lot of sense. That does feel good and it’s nice to see a lot of these guys that were under the weather back around.”
Two of those players are relievers Brandon Workman and Dan Winkler, who were placed on the COVID-19 related list earlier this week. They are now back with the team and planned to throw “intense bullpens” Friday.
“There’s been so much time between when they had to sit out and pitching,” Ross said. “I think there’s a slight injury risk and we’re able to take what is kinda deemed a rehab couple days and get them up to speed and hopefully have them back by Sunday.”
Are you new here?
Friday marked the first time the Cubs played a regular season game against a National League team outside their division since Sept. 12, 2019 (Padres).
They spent all of 2020 playing only teams in the NL and AL Central as baseball conjured up a geographical schedule to limit travel during the pandemic.
The Cubs played the first 12 games of 2021 against the Pirates and Brewers before welcoming the Braves into Wrigley for a three-game set.
“It’s exciting to me,” Ross said. “It feels good to get against somebody outside our division and outside the Central and start getting back to normal.”