MIAMI -- A year ago, the Cubs called up Kyle Schwarber for a week of Interleague games, and the rookie delivered, batting .364 in six games, and getting another promotion later in the season. Willson Contreras is having a Schwarber-esque week.
Playing his seventh big league game, Contreras hit his third home run and smacked a game-winning RBI single in the seventh to lift the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the Marlins and snap a four-game losing streak. How important has the youngster been?
"It's like oxygen. He's absolutely necessary," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "What he's done over the last couple days and the life he's brought to the group. It's absolutely necessary. He has been the catalyst the last couple days."
And Contreras has every intention of staying put. Schwarber was called up knowing he would return to the Minor Leagues, although he was summoned in mid-July last year. The Cubs said they wanted Contreras to join the big league club so he could learn from veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross. Contreras started Friday because Montero has been dealing with a knee injury, and he made the most of it.
"I told them, I'm not going to be back anymore [at Triple-A Iowa]," Contreras said. "Here is where I want to be. I'm going to do everything for my team -- the little things. Even if I go 0-for-4, I'll do everything behind the plate."
"I have confidence in myself," Contreras said. "I'm trying to have fun, and that's it."
Kris Bryant homered with one out in the first, and after Ben Zobrist singled, Contreras followed with an opposite-field blast to right.
"I've always loved when a young hitter drives to the opposite gap," Maddon said. "That's one of the most attractive things a young hitter can do."
Contreras' single in the seventh also was to right field.
"I don't try to hit the ball to right field, I just try to have the right approach at the plate and get a pitch to hit," he said.
Contreras was batting .350 at Iowa when promoted, and so far, is hitting .412. That's a nice start.
"He looks like a big league hitter, a very established big league hitter," Chicago pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "You saw it tonight. He hits balls hard. It's really fun to watch -- to be that young and come up right away and do it, it's unbelievable. We need it. We've got a lot of guys banged up."
The Cubs have tried to simplify the game-calling a little to make it easier on Contreras. Maddon wants Montero to catch on Saturday, but will figure out somewhere to put Contreras, who did take fly balls in left field before Friday's game.
"We'll play him tomorrow somehow," Maddon said.
That's all Contreras, 24, wants to do.
"Every second, every minute I've been out there, I've been enjoying my time, enjoying baseball," he said.
"He's been incredible," Zobrist said. "I know around here, it's something everybody expects, how well these young guys play, but what he's done is nothing short of amazing for a guy in his first week."
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.