Cubs manager David Ross: Balancing Willson Contreras’ playing time already paying off

DENVER – For the first time this season, Cubs manager David Ross worked both his catchers into the starting lineup on Sunday against the Rockies.

Backup catcher Yan Gomes took his place behind the dish, and Willson Contreras got to rest his legs and serve as the designated hitter.

“It’s felt easy to me,” Ross said of balancing Contreras and Gomes’ playing time. “Both guys you trust. With everybody, we would still have a week left in spring training in a normal season.”

With that in mind, Ross has been cognizant of possible workload issues, avoiding having relievers throw in back-to-back games, and in Contreras’ case, not having him catch in Sunday’s day game right after a night game. And Ross liked the matchup for both Contreras and Gomes against Rockies lefty Austin Gomber.

“Yan dove in, found his groove getting to know guys, how we do things, very communicative,” Ross said. “… They’ve got a good way about them, they care a lot about the pitching staff and how to get the most out of them. They both can really hit. So, it’s nice to have that core tandem catching guys. It’s always nice to have two good ones.”

The Cubs went through a backup catcher carousel last season, with multiple injuries and additions. So, Contreras shouldered a heavy workload. Ross said he’s looking forward to seeing what a rested Contreras looks like in the second half of the season.

“It already seems to be playing out really well,” Ross said. “… His batting practice, just the way he’s going about his business, his work, his engagement throughout a game with the pitching staff and the at-bats has really stood out so far to me and the way he’s running the bases. I think he’ll be able to give us that little bit extra intensity now and not be like he’s got to conserve so much. That should pay off in the long run.”

Contreras backed up Ross’ conjecture with a home run in his first at-bat Sunday. He entered the game with a .304 batting average.

Leiter poised for another start

Cubs right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., after allowing seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, promised “going forward, it’ll be better.”

It looks like he’ll get that chance soon.

“I don’t know if there’s anything guaranteed in this game,” Ross said, “but I expect him to make another start.”

The Cubs’ 9-6 loss at Coors Field on Saturday was Leiter’s first major-league game since 2018, after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019.

“First time back on the mound in a long time,” Ross said after the game, “looked sharp for a short stint, and thing got away from him quickly, and sometimes the ballpark can do that, and just the ballpark, travel, all that happens. I’m not making excuses for him, just lock that back in.”

On deck

RAYS AT CUBS

Monday: Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 7.00) vs. Shane McClanahan (0-1, 3.00), 6:40 p.m., Marquee 670-AM/1200-AM.

Tuesday: Justin Steele (1-0, 1.80) vs. TBD, 6:40 p.m., Marquee 670-AM/1200-AM.

Wednesday: Marcus Stroman (0-1, 6.00) vs. Drew Rasmussen (0-1, 5.00), 6:40 p.m., Marquee 670-AM/1200-AM.

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