Cardinals reverse Willson Contreras’ demotion from catcher after … 6 days
Willson Contreras must be the world's fastest learner. Either that or the St. Louis Cardinals have lost the plot.
Per MLB.com, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol told reporters that the team has decided Contreras is ready to resume his normal catching duties, six days after demoting the prized free-agent acquisition due to the team's struggles on the mound.
Contreras will get his next start behind the plate Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he will catch starting pitcher Jack Flaherty. Marmol reportedly said Contreras has spent much of the past week working to get more in sync with the Cardinals' game plan for attacking hitters and that Flaherty pushed for Contreras to be restored as catcher.
“We felt really good about the progress that we've made, and it lines up really well for him to catch on Monday with Jack on the mound,” Marmol said of the decision for Contreras to return to a catching role. “This is what [Flaherty and Contreras] wanted. They both wanted it, and Willson wanted to be behind the plate on Monday. And we felt really good about lining it up that way with all the progress that we've made.”
The decision reverses one of the more bizarre in-season decisions we've seen from a team in recent memory and only makes the early-season saga more perplexing.
Cardinals' handling of Willson Contreras makes even less sense
The Cardinals signed Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million contract last offseason with the intention of replacing longtime catcher and likely Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.
That was a tall order. Molina is widely regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of all time, especially when it comes to handling a pitching staff, while Contreras was never known for his work behind the plate during his time with the Chicago Cubs. He has long been a strong hitter at the position, but even so, it seemed clear to everyone that his addition would come with sacrifices when it came to run prevention.
That was apparently news to the Cardinals, who responded to a horrifically bad 11-24 start by making Contreras a full-time designated hitter. Marmol explained this by saying that Contreras had plenty to learn about the team's pitching staff:
“There are certain things and ways we operate that Willson is still taking to and learning. It’s a difficult thing coming from a different organization and learning all of it. We have an internal strategy to help with that, that will start moving in that direction over the next several weeks.”
Instead, he's back after six days, having apparently learned everything he needs to know.
The Cardinals' explanation seemed to cover up a far more uncomfortable truth than their high-priced catcher not being very good: Their aging pitching staff is just bad.
Contreras' near-week off didn't do much to dispel that notion. The Cardinals actually bounced back a bit during that span, going 4-2, but it wasn't because of their pitching. The team allowed an average of 5.5 runs in those six games, more than their 4.9 average in the 33 games prior.
But at least they can say they tried something.