MESA, Ariz. -- Miguel Montero first worked with Cubs top prospect Willson Contreras last summer during the veteran catcher's rehab stint at Double-A Tennessee. This spring, Montero saw nothing but positives from the 23-year-old catcher.
"The tough part is handling a pitching staff at the big league level," Montero said. "The only way to learn is be in the big leagues. To me, he's the guy who, when he comes up to the big leagues, in order to learn, he has to catch, repetition, face the hitters a few times, and hopefully, when he comes to the big leagues, I'm here to help him out and teach him."
Montero, who is signed through 2017, could very well mentor Contreras, but right now, the young catcher is headed to Triple-A Iowa. He batted .333 at Tennessee last season, and .357 in nine Cactus League games. He's close.
"It's hard to throw a young guy into a role like that with a good ballclub, good pitching staff and throw him in like that," Montero said. "It can hurt him, too, mentally. You need to ease him into an everyday role. There's no doubt in my mind he's an everyday guy. The big leagues are a little different."
Montero recalls wanting to play every day when he got to the big leagues, but then realized everything involved. He had to learn how to read a big league scouting report, find out his pitchers' strengths, weaknesses and personality quirks.
Both Contreras and third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who was optioned to Tennessee on Friday, made good progress this spring. Montero was there to help.
"They're such good kids -- they're so coachable," Montero said. "I'm proud of both. They opened a lot of eyes in the big league camp."