Contreras thriving as Cubs resume series at White Sox (Jul 26, 2017)

BY AP • July 25, 2017

CHICAGO -- Unless the Chicago Cubs acquire some additional catching help, Willson Contreras is destined to carry a demanding workload through the season's final 10 weeks.

The Cubs may want to keep him busy if he keeps gaining confidence behind the plate and producing on offense.

Contreras was 3-for-5 with a career-high-tying four RBIs, including a three-run homer -- his 16th -- in the Cubs' 7-2 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday.

He likely will be back behind the plate on Wednesday as the city series shifts to Guaranteed Rate Field for the first of two night games.

The second-year Cubs catcher is thriving, especially since the team released main backup Miguel Montero in late June, making Contreras the unquestioned No. 1 backstop.

Contreras, who turned 25 in May, already has a World Series ring earned in a partial 2016 season when he arrived as Montero's backup and hit .282 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 76 games. This year, he has started as catcher in 68 games and has appeared in 89 of Chicago's 99 games to date.

He is batting .273 and also has 18 doubles and 56 RBIs, good for second on the Cubs.

"Willy has been through it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said this week. "Willy has caught in the World Series. He had no issues there whatsoever. But he's still learning. Don't get me wrong ... he's very emotional. He's going to get upset once in a while, but he's really good at discarding it quickly, too. Eventually, he's going to mellow out a little bit, but hopefully not too much."

For now, the Cubs have rookie Victor Caratini as backup catcher. He has appeared in nine games and started once since joining the Cubs on June 28 from Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs send right-hander Jake Arrieta (9-7, 4.11 ERA) against White Sox right-hander James Shields (2-2, 5.79 ERA) on Wednesday in the third game of the annual city series.

Arrieta will make his eighth career start against the White Sox with all but one coming on the road. He owns a 5.01 ERA on the White Sox's home field but had a nine-inning two-hitter at Wrigley Field on July 12, 2015.

Shields makes his 10th start of the season on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with an 8.10 ERA in six starts since returning from the disabled list in mid-June.

At age 35, he is serving as something of a mentor for an increasingly young White Sox team that is rebuilding after trading starters for prospects.

"There are some promising young players," Shields said earlier this week. "Stacked in pitching. And their position players are starting to get stacked up a little bit in the minor leagues, so the excitement has to be at an all-time high.

"The fans should be excited. You obviously want to win now, but do you want to win for one year or 10?"

Shields posted a no-decision in his last start on Friday at Kansas City, allowing six runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings.

He is 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs. Shields won his last start vs. the Cubs on July 26, 2016, allowing four hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings.

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