Cubs will continue to roll with Darvish-Caratini pairing

4 years agoTony Andracki

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Willson Contreras confirmed Monday at Cubs summer camp that the status quo from the end of last season will remain, with Víctor Caratini serving as the personal catcher for Yu Darvish.

As Darvish worked to find his comfort level and settle into a groove in his second season in Chicago, Caratini emerged as a loyal companion. The two formed a battery that led to Darvish’s phenomenal second half, with Caratini catching most of those starts.

Contreras has no issue with it and understands the decision, especially in a shortened season and with the DH spot available.

Contreras will still catch Jon Lester every time out and on days he isn’t behind the plate, the Cubs can keep his bat in the lineup alongside Caratini.

“I don’t mind it,” Contreras said. “I think it will be really good. I put myself in that situation when I started catching Lester. It’s the same situation. I’m not mad. We are teammates, we’re gonna do really good and we’re here to win. That’s the most important thing.”

Contreras also said Caratini makes him proud, the way the younger backstop has emerged and developed into a reliable defender and solid hitter.

With Caratini catching last year, Darvish had a 3.29 ERA in 19 starts plus an incredible strikeout to walk ratio (155:16 in 120.1 innings). That ERA jumped up to 5.40 in Darvish’s other 12 starts with Contreras and Taylor Davis behind the plate.

Part of the equation when catching Darvish is his unique arsenal, which is now up to 11 pitches if he throws his new weapon — “The Supreme” — in games.

As David Ross said over the weekend, the Cubs don’t want to put limitations on an incredible athlete like Darvish and want him to be more free — similar to the organization’s approach with Javy Báez.

So managing Darvish’s repertoire and helping him continue to feel comfortable will remain chief among Caratini’s duties in 2020 and that relationship and familiarity might be even more important in a shortened season.

“We always feel confident with whoever we have behind the plate and whoever’s on the mound that they would work as a team to get on the same page, but it does help to speed that process up when the guys that are catching them are really familiar, on the same page,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “We know that Willy and Jon have worked great together over the last few years and what Vic did with Darvish that second half of the season last year, too, catching the majority of those games, I think can’t go unnoticed.

“We’re gonna try to hit the ground running and part of that is having those matchups between pitchers and catchers as well locked in before we start.”

This could all play out immediately, as Darvish is one of the frontrunners to take the ball in Game 1 when they open their season on July 24.

Contreras has started at catcher the last two All-Star Games for the National League squad, but if it is Darvish who toes the mound on Opening Day, he might be DH’ing with Caratini behind the plate.

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