Cubs opt to keep prospect Contreras in Minors

Cubs opt to keep prospect Contreras in Minors

CHICAGO -- With Miguel Montero going on the disabled list because of lower back stiffness, the Cubs could have promoted Willson Contreras, but manager Joe Maddon said he hoped to see the highly touted prospect later in the season.

The Cubs opted to call up Tim Federowicz, 28, from Triple-A Iowa to take Montero's spot on the active roster. Contreras, 23, ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's list of Top 30 Cubs Prospects, was batting .375 in 14 games at Iowa.

"We had to make a choice right there and 'Fed' was here for a reason," Maddon said. "Fed had a great Spring Training. Looking at the overall development of Contreras, in your mind's eye, if you're putting this whole thing together with a guy like Willson, you're going to wait until the second half or the latter part of the season to get him here. You bring in a guy like Fed for a specific reason, and here's the reason."

Federowicz has appeared in 89 big league games -- all with the Dodgers -- over four seasons.

"He understands the Major Leagues, he understands veteran pitchers," Maddon said. "There's a lot of different reasons why you sign Fed in the first place, and you don't run away from him when the opportunity jumps up. Contreras' time will come."

Montero agreed that Contreras, who was the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year last season, will get his opportunity.

"To be honest, I didn't realize until I had a couple years in the big leagues that it's harder than you think it is, especially when you have these kind of pitchers who have been around a long time," Montero said. "You put a lot of pressure on yourself trying to call a perfect game for these guys and there's a lot of weight on your shoulders. I guess [the Cubs] are trying to avoid that.

"The time will come for him," Montero said of Contreras.

• Cubs batters entered Thursday leading the Majors in walks, which has resulted in the second-best on-base percentage in the Majors. Maddon credited the maturation of some of the young hitters with the patient approach.

"You talk philosophy or theory with the group, and everybody listens, but do they really hear what you're saying? Our guys did," Maddon said. "We had those different meetings in Spring Training. Right now, you're seeing a group of guys playing the game today who will have one thought, and that is to wear this pitcher down collectively. You see it in the past -- I saw it in the 2000s with the Red Sox and the Yankees in the American League East. They would definitely wear you down. They'd get to your 'pen and bludgeon you at that point. You have to get a buy-in from everybody."

• According to Elias, only one other Cubs pitcher has posted an ERA lower than Jason Hammel (3-0, 0.75 ERA) in the first four starts of the season since the live-ball era. In 1976, Steve Stone had a 0.51 ERA through his first four starts with the Cubs.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.