‘Hasn’t been easy’: Cubs call up catcher Miguel Amaya, who has endured injury ‘roller coaster’

Cubs catcher Yan Gomes still was being evaluated Tuesday after taking a blow to the head in the first inning Monday.

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It has been a long road to the big leagues for catcher Miguel Amaya, who has been on the Cubs’ 40-man roster since November 2019 but was sent on a detour by injuries.

It has been a long road to the big leagues for catcher Miguel Amaya, who has been on the Cubs’ 40-man roster since November 2019 but was sent on a detour by injuries.

Gregory Bull/AP

WASHINGTON — Double-A Tennessee manager Michael Ryan told catcher Miguel Amaya he needed to talk with him about the week’s itinerary.

Amaya abandoned his grocery shopping and met Ryan in the hotel in Montgomery, Alabama, in which the Cubs’ affiliate was staying.

There, Ryan broke the news to Amaya: He wouldn’t be catching Tuesday for the Smokies because he was joining the Cubs in Washington.

Amaya, 24, jumped up and wrapped Ryan in a hug. Then he called his parents.

It has been a long road to the big leagues for Amaya, who has been on the Cubs’ 40-man roster since November 2019 but was sent on a detour by injuries.

Just when he was easing back into playing late last season — hitting but not yet cleared to catch after having Tommy John surgery in November 2021 — he slid into second base trying to break up a double play and got his cleat stuck in the dirt. He suffered a high ankle sprain and a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot.

‘‘It hasn’t been easy,’’ Amaya said Tuesday. ‘‘It’s been a roller coaster, ups and downs, a lot of work mentally and, of course, physically. But this is something that makes us strong, positive every day and faithful.’’

Amaya was in the latter stages of his recovery by spring training, ramping up baseball activities in major-league camp. He kicked off the season in Double-A, posting a 1.070 OPS in 13 games. So when Cubs catcher Yan Gomes was hit in the helmet with a backswing and left the game against the Nationals after the first inning Monday, Amaya got the call.

In a corresponding move, the Cubs designated left-hander Ryan Borucki for assignment.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Gomes was still under evaluation. The Cubs had not ruled out putting him on the seven-day injured list, which is used for players with concussion symptoms.

‘‘I wouldn’t say he’s feeling great,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I don’t think he’s miserable. I think he’s just feeling OK.’’

Ross, a former catcher, can speak about head injuries from personal experience, having suffered multiple concussions in his career. In 2013, he spent about two months on the injured list with concussion symptoms.

‘‘We’re taught as athletes that if you’re able to go out there and perform, you go out there and perform,’’ Ross said. ‘‘And when you have a broken foot or you had Tommy John [surgery], there is a scar on an elbow and a cast and a brace.

‘‘We can’t look inside the brain and see what’s going on and how to deal with guys getting blows to the head and how that affects each person differently. So it is a little bit of a wild card.’’

Catcher Tucker Barnhart echoed Ross’ push for caution.

‘‘[Gomes] is a huge part of our team, in the locker room, on the field, in meetings,’’ Barnhart said of Gomes in a conversation with the Sun-Times. ‘‘But head stuff you don’t mess with. I feel very strongly about that.’’

Gomes and Barnhart were part of the most recent chapter of Amaya’s development. Amaya worked alongside them in spring training, running through defensive drills, hitting on the field, throwing and asking questions.

‘‘Such a good kid,’’ Barnhart said. ‘‘Open to wanting to get better.’’

Amaya wanted to take as much as he could from observing Barnhart and Gomes. He noted what time they arrived at the complex for early work, how they went through their pregame routines and how they led the team.

He also got to work with the big-league pitching staff. He had come up through the minors with some of the pitchers and got to know the others in spring training.

‘‘Everybody sees how talented he is,’’ pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. ‘‘But just the little things, like how quick he picked up on the PitchCom. He was one of the first guys to use it in live [batting-practice sessions]. . . . You have conversations with him about what guys can do, and he’s already got a good feel for what guys were capable of.’’

Now Amaya is back with those guys. His parents, Max and Anny, are traveling from Panama to be at the game Wednesday.

When he first called them with the news, he said it took an hour to reach them.

‘‘When they answered, they were shocked,’’ Amaya said. ‘‘Then they started crying. I started crying, too. It’s something we’ve been waiting for for so long.’’

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