Willson Contreras has earned Joe Maddon’s trust

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs (R) celebrates with Aroldis Chapman #54 after defeating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 678125531

By Toni Ginnetti

Veteran catcher David Ross will take in all that he can about baseball, Wrigley Field and a World Series ending his career in these last three days.

And at the same time he will pass the torch to a rookie catcher who has catapulted to maturity in all of three months – Willson Contreras.

“Willson is great,’’ Ross said of Contreras, 24, and one of the cornerstone 20-somethings leading the Cubs. “He’s proven to everybody what kind of player he is and what kind of ability he has.

“His at bats are special and he has such energy, and he has a cannon for an arm. And his calling-of-game skills have continued to get better. He’s proven he can handle the load.’’

Manager Joe Maddon is placing the load on Contreras for the rest of the series, except for games Jon Lester might yet pitch with Ross as his battery mate.

“You saw it [Wednesday night],’’ Maddon said of Contreras, who is hitting .360 in the post season (12-for-25) with a home run and four RBI. “He didn’t have his hits, but he still worked good at-bats and did a great job of receiving.’’

The defensive part is a key for Maddon and the Cubs, and even though Contreras has had two interference calls against him, it hasn’t restrained his approach.

“I heard there was some concern about his trips to the mound [Wednesday],’’ Maddon said. “But they were absolutely necessary.

“It’s about strategy. Sometimes pitchers get off course, and he’s really good at following a game plan, so I loved his trips to the mound,’’ Maddon said. “I didn’t like them—I loved them.’’

Contreras guided Jake Arrieta through 5 2/3 innings of two-hit ball and Mike Montgomery (two innings) and Aroldis Chapman (1 1/3 innings) the rest of the way.

He has done it in 11 other post-season games so far, either as a starter or entering as a defensive replacement or pinch hitter.

And he has done it after a world wind rookie season, debuting June 17 and going on to hit .282 with 12 homers and 35 RBI.

“He’s a first year player who gets it,’’ Maddon said. “He plays with enthusiasm and passion. I know it actually comes through the TV monitors or screens, too. I’m certain of that.’’

Follow me on Twitter @ToniGinnetti.

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