Dandy dozen: Contreras 'magnificent' vs. ace

Cubs recall Grimm, option Pena; Maddon inspired by Memorial Day tribute on radio

Dandy dozen: Contreras 'magnificent' vs. ace

SAN DIEGO -- Willson Contreras saw every pitch Clayton Kershaw has during a 12-pitch at-bat on Sunday, a battle Cubs manager Joe Maddon called "magnificent."

Contreras won the showdown, hitting a leadoff homer in the second, although it wasn't enough as the Cubs lost to the Dodgers, 9-4.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Contreras and other #ASGWorthy players

"Facing Clayton Kershaw is a tough matchup for lefties and righties," Contreras said Monday. "Everybody knows he's one of the best lefties in the game. I was just trying to make contact and stay short with him. His mechanics make it hard to time him. I was trying to be small in my loading and trying to see the ball longer, and let the ball get deeper.

"He threw me everything he's got -- fastball, curveball, sliders. I was trying to battle, to wake up the team, and do better."

That's something Maddon would like to see from the other Cubs hitters as well.

"The thing that stood out to me in that at-bat was how he took pitches," Maddon said. "The balls out of [Kershaw's] hand, it's a ball, and [Contreras] didn't offer. When a hitter chases a pitch that starts as a strike and becomes a ball, you can understand that. When a hitter chases a pitch that starts as a ball and remains a ball, that's the at-bat you don't like."

The Cubs did take an aggressive approach against Kershaw, which showed in the first inning when Javier Baez and Kris Bryant both singled off the first two pitches from the lefty.

Contreras' at-bat was a perfect approach, too.

"When he took that first pitch, and he took it early, I said, 'Whoa. This will be a good at-bat,' and it was," Maddon said.

"It felt great," Contreras said. "Even if I struck out in that at-bat, a 12-pitch at-bat, that's amazing. I wanted to battle every pitch."

• The Cubs added a fresh arm on Monday, recalling right-hander Justin Grimm from Triple-A Iowa. Felix Pena was optioned to the Minor League team to make room. Grimm was 1-0 with a 7.53 ERA in 13 relief appearances with the Cubs this season. He was optioned May 10, and had three saves in six relief appearances with Iowa.

"I got back to keeping it simple and doing what I know and what works for me," Grimm said. "I went down there and just had fun again. They had a great group of guys who helped me through it, and it was awesome. In my mind, I'm back here, for sure. I just have to go out and take care of what I'm capable of doing."

Grimm induces DP, strands three

It wasn't that Grimm needed to prove he belonged in the big leagues, he just needed to get mentally back on track.

"I know I belong here," Grimm said. "I just have to keep it simple and attack the zone."

• Maddon's morning radio station played "Taps" on Monday to recognize those who have served and are no longer here.

"I don't think we think about that enough," Maddon said. "It stopped me in my room. My dad and my uncle served, I have a bunch of buddies who did. I never did, but I have family and friends who have.

"We just take it for granted. I think we just do that in general, even when it comes down to all the individual awful attacks throughout the world. We've become immune to all of this stuff, and we can't do that. We can't permit ourselves to become immune, whether it's Memorial Day or any of the days we're honoring our past. It's become too superficial. We have to take time to consciously make an effort to be aware of what's going on now.

"That little gig this morning on the radio made me stop and think, and actually got me in a good mood."

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.