Willson Contreras on offensive high; Cubs top Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Coming into the second of three video games towards the Diamondbacks this weekend, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras led his staff in most hitting classes. Then within the Cubs’ 4-2 victory towards Arizona on Saturday, he sparked a ninth-inning rally with a leadoff stroll.

“That is pretty much as good as I could have ever seen Willson,” supervisor David Ross mentioned this weekend. “The final collection [against the Padres], I believed he carried us offensively. He was the tone-setter every time we had been going by way of somewhat little bit of a lull. It appeared like his spot jump-started issues when he acquired again up there.”

Contreras’ future with the Cubs is unsure as he performs out his last yr of membership management with no obvious motion on extension talks. He has the added distraction of an arbitration listening to scheduled for June 9, a quirk of this post-lockout season.

“He’s been nice,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer mentioned of the best way Contreras has dealt with the scenario. “I believe everybody sort of offers with that in another way. . . . However he’s been taking part in nice and getting on base. His offensive sport is as sturdy as I’ve seen him.”

The final two weeks, it has been as sturdy as anybody’s. Contreras entered Saturday batting .433 since April 30, the best common within the majors throughout that span. And no less than to start out the season, Contreras’ strikeout price has dramatically improved, from 28.6% final season to 17.7%.

“It’s a extremely lengthy season to concentrate to statistics as a result of when you may have few at-bats, they will go approach up, they will go approach down,” Contreras mentioned. “However I’ve seen that I’ve been making extra contact than years earlier than, and that’s one thing that I labored on throughout my offseason.”

He targeting being quick to the ball.

Once more, numbers can shift dramatically over the course of a season, however in 113 plate appearances, Contreras was making contact on 81.2% of pitches within the strike zone coming into Saturday, up from 76.9% final season, in line with Statcast.

Plus, he’s hitting the ball laborious. Contreras was on tempo for his highest common exit velocity (93.9 mph) since Statcast started monitoring it in 2015.

“All people’s throwing 97, 99 [mph],” he mentioned.

“And we’ve been going through actually robust pitching. With that sort of pitching, my mindset is simply to make contact. No matter occurs after that’s going to occur.”

Contreras reiterated a number of instances this spring that his focus was on competing each day, not on his contract or commerce hypothesis.

Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo mentioned one thing comparable final yr, however when requested about placing contract uncertainty behind him, he instructed reporters in Chicago this week, “I didn’t understand how a lot of a burden it was.”

Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant, who went by way of the identical course of with the Cubs final yr, instructed the Solar-Occasions in spring coaching that he didn’t assume Contreras wanted any recommendation.

‘‘He’s going to go on the market and play with coronary heart and keenness, and I’m certain he gained’t even give it some thought the entire yr,” Bryant mentioned. “That’s simply who Willson is. That’s why he’s enjoyable to play with.’’

From what Ross has noticed, that’s precisely what Contreras has achieved.

“I believe he is aware of he’s going to be a extremely good major-league participant for a extremely very long time; he’s gonna make some huge cash,” Ross mentioned. “And he’s simply centered on serving to help his teammates and having a extremely good season and have enjoyable taking part in baseball. And I’ve seen that just about each day.”

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