By the time the verbal dust appeared to settle Tuesday after the Willson Contreras-Tyler Flowers flap Monday night, three more games remained this week between potential playoff combatants.
Aside from Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanting to make sure his catcher, Contreras, was in good standing with umpires, the Cubs said they had no lingering issues and didn’t expect any emotional heat to carry over with the National League East-leading Braves.
“To me it should be the end of this,” said Contreras, who seemed – if anything – to use the “heat of the moment” Monday as fuel into Tuesday.
Contreras drew a walk in his first trip to the plate Tuesday and eventually was thrown out at third on an aggressive play after a bunt attempt. He also pounced on a roller on the third-base line instead of allowing it to go foul in the third inning and whirled for a strong, off-balance throw to get Josh Donaldson by a step.
He then drove a go-ahead double into the left-field corner for two runs in the fourth.
Contreras said he had no intention of saying anything to Flowers, the Braves catcher Monday, after the two faced off in an F-bomb exchange after his second-inning homer that resulted in benches and bullpens emptying briefly onto the field.
“If he wants to keep going with the same thing, we’ll see what happens, but I’m not looking for that,” said Contreras, who still seemed irritated and mystified that Flowers would say anything at all from behind his mask while Contreras said something to the umpire about a strike call in his at-bat and one that he believed the ump missed in teammate Kyle Schwarber’s earlier at-bat.
“[Flowers] said something like `You’re getting those calls, too; you fooled him with a backup cutter,’ “ Contreras said. “And I said, `I’m not talking to you.’ I don’t know if there’s other catchers that jump into batter and umpire conversations. I haven’t heard of [any]. I don’t do that. I respect that there’s space between umpires and batters.”
Kimbrel on tap?
Closer Craig Kimbrel looks ready to join the Cubs’ bullpen by the series finale against the Braves on Thursday or the series opener in Cincinnati on Friday.
The seven-time All-Star struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth inning at Class AAA Iowa on Tuesday night in what was expected to be his final minor-league appearance in a spring-like preparation since he signed a $43 million free-agent deal three weeks ago.
“He threw well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after getting reports on Kimbrel’s 16-pitch outing. “We’ll discuss that, see how he comes out of it, and then we’ll talk to him and make our decisions.”
Kimbrel, whose fastball reached 95 mph Tuesday, had made three previous appearances for the Iowa Cubs, including back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday. He allowed only two hits over the four appearances, including a solo homer for the one run he allowed (along with four strikeouts and a walk).
Maddon said he doesn’t plan to use Kimbrel for more than three-out save situations until at least the end of the season, when there are more direct playoff implications.
“As he gets here, he’ll be slotted, and really carefully,” Maddon said, adding that even in September he hoped to avoid more than a four-out save try. “I also believe this bullpen, with the experience we’ve gotten to this point, should permit us to avoid that by being able to absorb the eighth inning well.”
Starter Kyle Hendricks (sore shoulder), who threw lightly off a mound for a few minutes Monday, has a full bullpen scheduled Tuesday. Barring a setback, that keeps him on pace for a possible return from the injured list near the All-Star break, team president Theo Epstein said.
Hendricks was 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last eight starts before his shoulder flared up against the Dodgers on June 14.
Setup man Carl Edwards Jr. (upper back) played long toss again in anticipation of his first bullpen session Wednesday since going on the injured list two weeks ago. If that goes well, Epstein said, he would throw another side or two, then could be scheduled for a minor-league rehab assignment.