Willson Contreras stroked a hard line drive to left-center field and limped out of the batter’s box on his way to first base. Unable to put pressure on his right leg, Contreras struggled all the way down the line.
The Cubs confirmed their All-Star catcher injured his right hamstring on the lineout but won’t know the severity until he has an MRI exam Monday.
The thought of losing Contreras may be among the worst-case scenarios for the Cubs, who can’t afford such an injury in the thick of a playoff race. The otherwise impressive 4-1 victory Saturday against the Brewers seemed like an afterthought.
“It’s always a tough blow when you lose a catcher like him,” said left-hander Cole Hamels, who threw five scoreless innings in his first start back from the injured list. “Especially the type of hitter he is. He’s an All-Star. You don’t find those out there.”
Manager Joe Maddon said he had no idea when asked about the severity of the injury and would await the MRI results.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know at this point. We’ll find out the severity at that point or the lack of it.”
A serious hamstring injury could put Contreras on the shelf for most of the last two months.
Making matters worse, the injury comes just days after the Cubs traded backup catcher Martin Maldonado to the Astros for second baseman Tony Kemp. If Contreras has to miss extended time, Victor Caratini would become the every-day catcher. Caratini already was slated to catch Yu Darvish on Sunday, Maddon said.
In need of a new backup catcher, the Cubs likely would turn to Taylor Davis, who has played in 19 games with the Cubs over the last three seasons. He played in six games for the Cubs in late April and early May before being sent down May 16.
Caratini is hitting .271 in 118 at-bats. Davis is hitting .250 at Class AAA Iowa.
“I know Caratini is gonna get the bulk of it,” Hamels said. “But he’s been playing well, so it’s just a matter of seeing what we can do with the options we have.”
Contreras missed a month in 2017, his first full season with the Cubs, with a strained right hamstring.
It was clear right away that he knew something was wrong. Contreras walked slowly back to the dugout with his head down and a team trainer beside him. When he reached the dugout, he appeared to scream in frustration before throwing his batting gloves to the ground.
Albert Almora came up to the plate immediately after Contreras and cranked a solo home run that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
“It’s tough,” Almora said. “You never want to see an All-Star catcher go down like that.”
Contreras ranks third in the majors among catchers with 19 home runs and second with 57 RBI. He’s hitting .275 and slugging .525.