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As stakes rise for Cubs, so does resurgent Montero’s value

Miguel Montero connects on a home run Tuesday in Milwaukee.

HOUSTON – As if there was any doubt whether the Cubs would carry three catchers in the playoffs (they will), veteran Miguel Montero seems to be making sure to eradicate the last of the doubt.

The lefty-hitting Montero, who has struggled at the plate all season and lost much of his playing time to rookie Willson Conteras, doubled again Saturday as the Cubs’ designated hitter – leading to their only run in a 2-1 loss to the Astros.

Despite sporadic playing time, Montero is 10-for-24 (.417) since Aug. 20, with four extra-base hits, including a homer.

When asked during the road trip how he feels at the plate these days, he said, simply: “fresh.”

Then he grinned.

Montero, who has another year left on a contract that pays $14 million this year and again next year, came to terms with his new playing-time reality months ago.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit harder when you don’t play every day. You’re timing gets a little bit off,” he said. “What am I going to do? I can’t keep putting pressure on myself, trying to get four hits in one at-bat, because it ain’t gonna happen. So you just go out there, have fun, and if you get hits, good. If you don’t, I’ve still got to go catch and call a good game.”

That he has continued to do that and remained especially adept at handling this veteran pitching staff makes the playoff-tested catcher a valued commodity on an October roster.

That he’s starting to look “spiffy” at the plate again, as manager Joe Maddon sees it, only raises the value.

“That could be very important to us,” Maddon said. “He’s having confident at-bats. His base-running [taking third on a sacrifice fly in the fourth] was good. Everything he did today was good.”

Montero said even in the ninth, when he grounded sharply to first with Matt Szczur on second, for the second out, he felt like he “was right on” the pitch until a slight, late break kept him from elevating it for a possible hit.

“Obviously, I’m trying to take full advantage of the opportunity I have right now,” he said. “Hopefully, I keep it going.”