Cubs’ Willson Contreras named All-Star ballot finalist, lobbies for Ian Happ

Contreras led NL catchers in Phase 1 of All-Star voting with 2,146,343 votes.

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The Cubs’ Willson Contreras celebrates in the dugout after scoring in the first inning of Thursday’s win over the Reds.

The Cubs’ Willson Contreras celebrates in the dugout after scoring in the first inning of Thursday’s win over the Reds.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was asked to imagine what a third All-Star start would mean to him.

“It would be nice for me, my family and the city of Chicago, who have my back and support [me],” he said Thursday before the Cubs’ 15-7 win against the Reds. “And doing it with the Cubs also, it means everything to me.”

Contreras likely won’t have to imagine it much longer. Major League Baseball announced the 2022 All-Star ballot finalists, including Contreras, who led National League catchers in Phase 1 with 2,146,343 votes. 

The second phase of voting runs July 5-8, and Contreras will be going up against Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud for the NL starting spot behind the plate. 

No other Cubs were named finalists, but Contreras’ brother William, a catcher and designated hitter for the Braves, is competing against the Phillies’ Bryce Harper for the NL DH spot in Phase 2. Harper is the favorite to win but recently underwent surgery on his broken left thumb and will need a replacement in the All-Star Game. 

“I’m not thinking about it yet because a lot of things can change from now until then,” Willson Contreras said of the possibility of playing with his brother in the All-Star Game. “But if we can make it together, I’m sure that we will both enjoy it a lot, and my family would be really proud.” 

The pitchers and reserves for both leagues are determined through player ballots and commissioners office selections, so the Cubs could end up sending more than just Contreras and trainer PJ Manville

“The work [outfielder Ian Happ’s] done this year is impressive,” Contreras said, pointing to Happ’s breakout stats. “And I 100% know that he deserves to be there with me.”

Entering Thursday, Happ ranked No. 4 in FanGraph’s wins above replacement among NL outfielders. 

Happ went 2-for-3, and Contreras logged two hits and scored two runs. Patrick Wisdom hit two homers, including a grand slam. But rookie Christopher Morel stole the spotlight, going 5-for-5 with a home run.

Heyward to IL 

The Cubs put outfielder Jason Heyward on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation. Heyward had been out of the lineup since Saturday, and the Cubs backdated the move the maximum three days. 

In a corresponding move, the Cubs called up outfielder Narciso Crook, whom they signed to a minor-league deal in November. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, they transferred Michael Hermosillo (left quadriceps strain) from the 10-day IL to the 60-day.  

“It’s my first time experiencing a different organization,” said Crook, who spent eight years in the Reds farm system. “Everybody has just been so welcoming. Everyone has been amazing, very professional. I’ve had a great experience so far.”

It got even better as he recorded two hits, including an RBI double in his debut.

Bote exits with injury

Second baseman David Bote left the game with left shoulder soreness after colliding with shortstop Nico Hoerner on a ground ball in the fourth inning. Bote, who was evaluated on the field, finished the half-inning but was replaced by Andrelton Simmons in the fifth. 

Coaching change 

The Cubs announced a change in the strength and conditioning staff. Head strength coach Quentin Eberhardt, whom the Cubs hired in the offseason, is returning to the University of Tennessee as their director of baseball sports performance. 

With Eberhardt’s departure, Ryan Clausen will join the major-league strength and conditioning staff, working alongside Keegan Knoll. Clausen has been with the Cubs’ organization for over a decade, including a stint as Triple-A Iowa’s strength coach in 2014-19.

Over the last two seasons, he has served as the Rookie League Mesa strength coach while working toward his masters of high performance sport through Australian Catholic University.

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