Miguel Montero enjoyed a special moment Friday, hitting a home run in the 10th inning that allowed the Cubs to celebrate their National League Central title on a perfect note.
Perhaps the only person who enjoyed seeing Montero come through more than the catcher himself was manager Joe Maddon.
“He has not given up on himself or the year,” Maddon said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Montero, 33, entered that game hitting .215 and later said: “There was actually a point where I thought I was going to be released.”
The Cubs have carried three catchers and split time among them.
Montero has been invaluable, Maddon said, in the development of rookie Willson Contreras, 24, who has been a mainstay in the starting lineup since his promotion in mid-June.
Initially, Contreras split time between catching and the outfield. In part because of Montero’s help, he has settled in primarily at catcher since the beginning of August.
“What [Montero has] done for Willson, you can’t see it, but it’s there,” Maddon said. “You can see how Willson has grown as a catcher, but I am privy to a little bit of the conversation, and I think it’s fabulous. For a guy on the other side of his career, like we all are, he has given a lot to Willson.”
It’s worth noting that Montero’s big hit Friday was his second extra-inning walk-off winner this season. He’s the only Cub with two.
Another day off
Most of the Cubs’ starting lineup was given a second day off after clinching the division title Thursday.
Kris Bryant returned to the starting lineup and batted second, but Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell took a second consecutive day off.
“It was a two-day gig,” Maddon said of the rest. “[Bryant] wanted to be back in there, and the other guys were fine with it.”
Maddon said Zobrist might get additional time off, but the lineup for Sunday should be a return to normal.
Skipper jealous of boss
Maddon envied team president Theo Epstein’s shenanigans in the bleachers Friday.
Before the postgame celebration began, Epstein donned a fake mustache and sat in disguise with fans during the Brewers-Cubs game.
“I was jealous,” Maddon said. “I just love the entire attitude with that. Here are guys who are brilliant people. They work really hard. . . . And then when they let their hair down, it’s kind of fun.”
Maddon also appreciated Epstein wearing one of his “Respect 90” T-shirts.
No update on Soler
Maddon offered no update on the status of outfielder Jorge Soler, who left the game Friday in the fourth inning with tightness in his right side.
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