MILWAUKEE – With rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber looking more like an everyday player every week, what does that mean for the Cubs’ catching plans once Miguel Montero gets back from the disabled list in the next week or so – not to mention heading into next season?
The question has not been lost on Montero, the two-time All-Star with two years and $28 million left on his contract after this season.
“Of course, when I came here I expected to play every day,” said Montero, who caught more games than anybody else in baseball the four seasons leading up to his December trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I don’t think you want to pay that much money to a guy to bench him. Especially when I’ve got two years left making … [$14 million each year].
“But that’s not my job. My job is to play and do what I’m capable of doing.”
Montero, 32, opened the season as part of a three-man catching rotation until Welington Castillo’s trade to Seattle in May. He has continued to sit against lefties and when Jon Lester pitches (to his personal catcher David Ross).
Since Montero went on the DL with a sprained thumb three weeks ago, his playing-time potential took another hit with the ascension of Schwarber.
Schwarber had another big game in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the rival Brewers, including a walk, a late homer and in between an 11-pitch at-bat that resulted in a two-out single that opened a three-run rally.
Anthony Rizzo capped that rally with a homer in his fourth consecutive game as the Cubs earned a fourth straight victory to tie their season high-water mark of nine games over .500.
“Everyone’s feeling good, so we’ve just got to keep the good vibe going,” Rizzo said.
How does Montero fit into that vibe?
Even before Saturday’s game, in which Schwarber caught an impressive seven-plus-inning start from Kyle Hendricks, manager Joe Maddon stated the obvious: that the club plans to keep Schwarber on the roster even after Montero returns from the DL.
“We want his bat in the lineup,” the manager said. “He’s done a nice job behind the plate, too. He’s shown versatility by playing in the outfield. He’ll be here for a while.”
Montero sees the handwriting on the wall.
“It’s not my decision. But I still feel I’m still capable of catching every day,” he said. “If I still feel that way I think I should, you know, play, but I don’t know what’s going to be. I can’t think for them.”
Montero has never complained about his playing time or expressed anything short of a desire to help the team in its playoff push.
But just two months into the season a source close to Montero said he was frustrated with his playing time and “already wants out.”
“My job is to come here and compete and do my job,” said Montero (.230, 10 homers). “Whenever I’m in the lineup do my best, and if I’m not, try to help my teammates some other way. Of course, I would like to be in the lineup. But I can’t control that.”
With Schwarber in the Cubs’ plans for the opening roster next April, and with more big ideas for big-ticket pitching in the off-season, the Cubs have a $28 million decision to make with Montero over the next five months.
For now, he wants return as quickly as possible from the rehab stint he starts Sunday and add what he expects to be a recharged bat to the mix — And to help Schwarber any way he can.
“It ain’t his fault,” Montero said. “So why would I take it out on him? I want him to be the best that he can be, and he’s got the potential to be really good.”
As for his own future with the team?
“At this point, to be honest, the way the season has started,” he said, “I [wouldn’t be] surprised about anything.”