The Cubs may not have envisioned Willson Contreras behind the plate for the start of a playoff when they opened spring training last February.
But Contreras saw this coming from the time he was playing in the Arizona Fall League last year watching the Cubs on TV in the playoffs.
“As I’m watching the game, I put myself behind the plate,” said the rookie catcher, who made his postseason debut as the Game 2 starter catcher for pitcher Kyle Hendricks Saturday night in a 5-2 win against the Giants.
“I don’t have nerves at all,” he said before the game. “I don’t need to put pressure on myself.”
Contreras committed catcher’s interference in the top of the second Saturday, creating a first-and-second, one-out jam. He also lined a single the opposite way to right during the Cubs’ three-run rally in the bottom of the inning. He added a sixth-inning single, the only Cub with a multi-hit performance.
Manager Joe Maddon said started Contreras because of how well he and Hendricks had worked together this season, “and I like having his athleticism out there, too.”
Maddon said he’s still mulling whether to start Contreras against left-hander Madison Bumgarner in Game 3 on Monday with Jake Arrieta pitching for the Cubs.
The Cubs last started a rookie in a playoff game in 2008 when Rookie of the Year Geo Soto was their starter.
But even with Miguel Montero, David Ross and Kyle Schwarber locked into catching corps on the Cubs’ 25-man roster, Contreras insists he envisioned this moment back in spring training.
“Because as a player you have to put yourself first,” said Contreras, who predicted then he would debut during the season, and not return to the minors. “I just started doing my job, doing my best, and now I’m able to start a playoff game. That means a lot to me.
“I know the kind of team we had I spring training. I thought about the playoffs. Now I’m here, and I’m going to try to enjoy every single day, every single game, and I will do my best to help my team.”
Travis Wood, who took over for injured starter Hendricks in the top of the fourth inning, hit a home run in the bottom of the inning — justthe third Cubs pitcher to hit a postseason homer, first since Kerry Wood (no relation) in 2003. Rick Sutcliffe hit one in 1984.
“I just figured [George Kontos] was probably going to start me out with a cutter,” Wood said, “and I made a good swing on it and was fortunate enough to get him and hit it out of the park”
He’s the second relief pitcher to do it in postseason history (Rosy Ryan in 1924).
“It was a special moment for me personally,” Wood said. “But just to be able to pull off the win [with Hendricks and the rest of the bullpen] was huge.”
Hendricks was hit on the forearm by Angel Pagan’s line drive, but X-rays were negative, and the club said he suffered a bruise.
Hendricks drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the second.