Willson Contreras will return Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers as catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Oli Marmol told reporters Saturday. John Denton of MLB.com. Contreras has not appeared behind the plate since May 5, with the Cardinals announcing last Saturday that he would not be catching up anytime soon. Instead, each of his six starts since then has come as the Cardinals’ designated hitter.
Contreras will be paired with Jack Flaherty on Monday as the Cardinals’ starting battery. Flaherty and rotational game Adam Wainwright had met with Contreras to discuss what the catcher should do to help the pitching staff.
“This is what they wanted. They both wanted it and Willson wanted to be behind the plate on Monday,” Marmol told reporters, including Denton. “And we felt really good about aligning it that way with all the progress we’ve made.”
Contreras, 31, signed a five-year pact worth nearly $90 million with the Cardinals during the offseason. He has been a reliable above-average hitter throughout his career, but critics are fixated on his defensive shortcomings. While game calling is hard for outsiders to quantify, Statcast estimates it ranks in the 34th percentile in framing. (Cardinals backup Andrew Knizner, for his part, ranks 47th.)
“I want to be super clear. We don’t lose ball games because Willson Contreras is behind the plate. I want to be super clear about that,” said Marmol at the time. “This is a guy who is doing an incredible amount of work to become more familiar with our pitchers, but also with how we do things.”
Despite the drama on Contreras’ defense, he has remained a skilled hitter. In 150 at bats on Saturday, he hit .263/.340/.406 (108 OPS+). The 14-25 Cardinals nevertheless remain one of the most underwhelming teams of the season.