Willson Contreras getting opportunity to be Cubs’ new leadoff hitter

PHOENIX – The Cubs’ are looking for a new leadoff hitter again. Outfielder Joc Pederson had taken over the role, but after Pederson was traded to the Braves on Thursday, the search for stability at the top of the lineup continues.

Catcher Willson Contreras has the most at-bats out of the leadoff spot on the roster. Contreras, who normally leads off against left-handed pitching, has gotten the first opportunity to take over as the catalyst of the Cubs lineup.

Manager David Ross hopes Contreras’ approach at the top brings some stability to the spot and gives the team a seamless transition with a new leadoff man.

“Willson’s done a really nice job for us against left-handers when he’s in there,” Ross said before Saturday’s game. “I just want to keep some kind of continuity to this year. We’ll see how it goes. I talked to him a little bit about that yesterday. He’s good with it. I think he’s done a nice job having professional at-bats.

“He’s facing righties too.. So I don’t think it dictates too much. It reorganizes the lineup a little bit differently, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, either. … If I see a problem that I don’t like, we’ll adjust.

Wick to begin rehab assignment in South Bend

It’s been a long time since Rowan Wick has been on the mound in a game, but after nearly 10 months since going on the injured list last September, the Cubs right-hander finally working his way back. Wick is expected to begin a rehab assignment at Single-A South Bend in the coming days.

The right-hander was one of the Cubs’ most productive bullpen arms before going down with an intercostal injury in 2020. Since 2019, Wick is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 50 appearances.

Obviously with so much time between game action for Wick, his road back to Chicago is going to take time before he’s back in a Cubs uniform. Being able to get back to pitching in back-to-back games and his recovery will be a big step for the right-hander.

Reliever Dillon Maples (right triceps strain) is close to making his return from the IL. Maples has made six appearances with Triple-A Iowa and could return very soon.

“Dylan should be close,” Ross said. “I think he’s probably less than a week out.”

Rizzo reaches a milestone

First baseman Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs’ longest-tenured player and continues to slowly move up the franchise’s record books. Rizzo’s solo home run in Friday’s 5-1 victory gave him his 239th home run as a Cub, tying him with Aramis Ramirez for sixth-most in franchise history. The homer was Rizzo’s 533rd extra-base hit with the Cubs, surpassing Phil Cavarretta for 10th place in franchise history.

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