All-Star or not, Cubs value Willson Contreras’ contributions

Contreras has caught 74 games, helping the Cubs deal with a revolving door of backup catchers.

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Willson Contreras has handled a tough workload for the Cubs.

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Willson Contreras isn’t an All-Star this year, but that doesn’t affect how the Cubs feel about their starting catcher.

The game Saturday night against the Cardinals was his 74th behind the plate as the Cubs have cycled through backups, with no other catcher getting more than five starts. He has hit all over the lineup and handled the pitching staff, but, at least for now, that hasn’t been enough to earn a trip to Denver to rub elbows with the best players in the game.

“He’s definitely been an All-Star for our group, for sure,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Sometimes it gets recognized over the league, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

After the Giants’ Buster Posey went on the injured list with a thumb issue, there was a possibility Contreras would nab that spot. The nod, however, went to the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, but he bowed out to rest an ailing foot. The Brewers’ Omar Narvaez eventually got the call.

The nod would be nice for Contreras, but there is one benefit to missing out, especially considering the harsh workload he has endured.

“I’m glad he’s getting some time off,” Ross said. “You’d have to ask him about how he feels about that, but he’s a two-time All-Star already. I know he prides himself on his game, and the awards are really cool. To be selected to go to the All-Star Game is an amazing honor, but selfishly as his manager, I like that he’s going to get four days off.”

Ross was there as a teammate when Contreras broke in during the 2016 season. Now in his second season as his manager, Ross has seen plenty of progress from Contreras since his rookie year on what turned out to be a championship team.

Beyond his passion to win and desire to be coached and get better, Ross has seen jumps in how Contreras handles the ups and downs of a season emotionally. His pitch-framing also has improved.

“There’s a lot of positives that I’ve seen [from] him in his growth,” Ross said.

Coming along

Injured infielders Matt Duffy and David Bote worked out on the field and are expected to begin rehab assignments after the All-Star break. Duffy’s will begin the Monday after the break, and Bote’s will kick off Thursday or Friday of that week.

Duffy has been on the injured list since May 23 with a strained lower back. In June, it seemed that his recovery had stalled, but he appears to be back on track for a return to the Cubs’ lineup.

“Duffy’s done really well,” Ross said. “He’s felt good over the past week. He’s been in my office a couple of times with a lot of positives.”

Bote has been on the injured list since May 30 with a dislocated left shoulder.

Just a reminder

The 2021 draft begins Sunday night, and the Cubs have the 21st pick in the first round. In last year’s opening round, the Cubs took Mount Carmel shortstop Ed Howard with the 16th overall pick.

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