Contreras learns firsthand by catching Lester

Contreras learns firsthand by catching Lester

MESA, Ariz. -- David Ross isn't squatting behind Willson Contreras each time the young Cubs catcher works with Jon Lester. Ross isn't even watching throwing sessions. Contreras asserted himself and told Ross he'd like to figure out Lester by himself. Ross agreed.

"I told [Ross], 'I want to get to know Lester by myself,'" Contreras said on Tuesday. "He was a catcher and he retired. Every catcher is different. He has his ways to play catch and play defense, I have my ways, and everything is different. I told [Ross] I'd like to get to know Lester by myself, ask him any questions, and that's what I'm doing."

Ross, now a special assistant to the front office, is there for backup.

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"He told me, 'If you have any questions, I'll be here, but I don't want to tell you anything,'" Contreras said. "[He said] 'You get to know Lester. You'll do great, better than I did. I trust you.' That's what he said. That was key.

"It made me feel really, really good, more comfortable than I was," Contreras said of Ross' message. "Right now, I'm just focusing on Lester, [John Lackey] and all my pitchers."

Ross, who retired after helping the Cubs win the World Series last season, was behind the plate for the most innings with Lester (578 1/3), but Ross ranks second in games (89) to Jason Varitek (91 games). Lester compiled a 2.75 ERA with Ross, a 3.41 ERA with Varitek.

"We've been talking about pitch sequences, how the cutter works, how the fastball works, who do you throw the changeup to -- [things like that]," Contreras said of his sessions with the pitcher, pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching instructor Mike Borzello.

It's not that Lester wants Contreras to position himself a certain way, but learning how the lefty wants to deal with hitters.

"I know what he wants to do and he knows what he wants to do," Contreras said. "Everything will be easier than I thought."

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.