Cardinals remove ex-Cub Willson Contreras from catching rotation

Manager Oliver Marmol said the decision was made after a meeting with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, pitching coach Dusty Blake and Contreras.

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Cardinals pitchers have a 5.04 ERA throwing to Willson Contreras.

Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP

In a stunning twist, Willson Contreras is out of the Cardinals’ catching rotation.

After only 34 games, the team changed course and will use the former Cub primarily at designated hitter and in the outfield. This after the Cardinals gave him a five-year, $87.5 million contract in free agency.

He began his new role as the DH in the Cardinals’ 6-5, 10-inning loss to Tigers on Saturday in St. Louis. The Cardinals have lost eight in a row for the first time in 16 years, and their 10-24 record is the worst in the National League.

“It allows for some familiarity behind the plate with our guys, which I think will help, especially in the state that we’re in,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “We’re not losing ballgames because of Willson Contreras. This is a guy that’s putting in an amazing amount of work to be able to become more familiar with, one, our pitchers but also how we do things.”

Marmol said the decision was made after a meeting with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, pitching coach Dusty Blake and Contreras. Contreras’ defense was a big reason the Cubs let him go, but it didn’t dissuade the Cardinals from making him the successor to Yadier Molina.

Andrew Knizner played catcher Saturday and will maintain the role for the time being. The Cardinals called up Tres Barrera from Triple-A Memphis and will give him some playing time.

“It’s tough,” said Contreras, who went 1-for-5 on Saturday but is hitting .302 in the last 15 games. “I’m an employee. I know that my primary position is catching. If they want me to DH more, I can do nothing about it but be the best hitter I can be.”

Contreras has thrown out five of 16 runners trying to steal, while Knizner has caught just one of 11. However, Cardinals pitchers have a 5.04 ERA in 201⅔ innings throwing to Contreras compared to a 4.03 ERA in 96 innings with Knizner.

“It’s getting better,” Contreras said about his relationship with his pitchers. “Our relationships are good. I don’t think there is a miscommunication or anything like that. If you look back at the games, we’re not executing with two strikes. We get the hitters in 0-2 counts, but we’re not executing with two strikes. That’s where we’re getting hurt.”

The Tigers spoiled Adam Wainwright’s return from the injured list and dropped the Cardinals 14 games under .500 for the first time since ending the 1997 season at 73-89. Akil Baddoo hit a go-ahead double in the 10th inning, driving in automatic runner Jonathan Schoop.

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