The Cubs remain hopeful injured catcher Willson Contreras will return before the end of the season after an MRI on his injured hamstring Thursday revealed a strain.
It’s not considered a worst-case scenario. But the team’s hottest hitter is expected to miss at least a month, which could put him back in the lineup for the final two weeks of the season.
That could be an especially critical point for the National League Central-leading Cubs, who play their closest pursuers — St. Louis and Milwaukee — in 11 of their final 16 games.
The Cubs were expected put Contreras on the disabled list with the right hamstring strain before Friday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Victor Caratini was flown in from Class AAA Iowa to take his place on the roster.
On Wednesday, Contreras suffered the injury while running out a grounder in the eighth innings against the Giants. He grabbed his right hamstring and hopped past first base before collapsing in the outfield grass.
Caratini is batting .344 with 10 home runs and 59 RBI in 76 games this season at Iowa. He has seen time with the Cubs this season. He was promoted to the big leagues June 28 after Miguel Montero was designated for assignment. In limited at-bats behind Contreras, he hit .192 during 11 games before being sent back to Iowa on August 1.
The injury is a big blow to the Cubs lineup as Contreras, the reigning NL player of the week, was 10-for-22 (.455) with five home runs and 13 RBI in six games last week and is hitting .311 with 10 homers and 29 RBI in 22 games since the break.
Contreras is no stranger to hamstring injuries. In 2014, Contreras suffered a pulled hamstring that ended his Arizona Fall League season.