Cubs mull how to stop running game without Contreras catching Lester

PHOENIX – The Cubs began learning Friday how they’ll manage the next month or more without cleanup hitter Willson Contreras in the lineup.

On Saturday, they’ll get their first real lesson in life without Contreras behind the plate.

That’s when Jon Lester starts for the first time this year without his strong-armed personal catcher, who took over this year for former personal catcher David Ross.

The Cubs have 20 games left against the top three base-stealing teams in the National League – including the Diamondbacks this weekend – and some insiders are bracing for a “track meet” no matter who gets the call behind the plate.

Jon Lester

“Willson’s a force in preventing that, there’s no question about it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And I’m very aware of the Diamondbacks. The best way to stop some really good runners is to not let them on first base.”

Maddon said before Friday’s game he’s still “debating” whether veteran Alex Avila or rookie Victor Caratini will catch Lester on Saturday.

Lester downplayed the significance of being without his safety-net catcher down the stretch.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said. “Alex has obviously been around for a long time. We’ve got a game report, and we’ll try to execute it.

“We’ve got to execute pitches regardless of the fingers they put down. That’s what it comes down to, not necessarily who’s behind there. We’ve got to execute the game plan and execute the pitch. If we don’t do that, it doesn’t really matter.”

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Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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