PHOENIX -- Willson Contreras said Friday he felt much better than when he injured his right hamstring, but the Cubs catcher knows he needs to take his time before trying to return.
An MRI revealed Contreras has a moderate right hamstring strain, and he was expected to be sidelined a minimum of four weeks, the team announced on Friday. Contreras was placed on the 10-day disabled list and catcher Victor Caratini was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. Contreras, 25, injured his leg running to first base in San Francisco on Wednesday.
"Even if it's three to five weeks or four to six weeks, I'll stay positive and I'm going to take it slow and make sure when I get back, I get back 100 percent and can still give 100 percent on the field," Contreras said. "I don't want to rush anything. I'm going to take my time."
The first step is for Contreras to be pain free, which will likely take about two weeks. The Cubs will then step up his rehab process, and the team will have a better idea of the timeline then.
"Hamstrings are so unpredictable," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Let's just play it out. Obviously, it's difficult to not have his name in the lineup tonight, all the wonderful things he's done all year, especially since the All-Star break, what he means to us, even his energy. The reality is he's not here right now."
The loss of Contreras creates a huge hole in the Cubs' lineup. Since the break, he has led the team, batting .311 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Contreras has been such a key piece that Maddon inserted him in left field last Saturday and at first base on Wednesday to keep his bat in the lineup.
"It feels bad because now I can't be on the field, helping the team," Contreras said. "But I'm still here and I'll be wtih the team, supporting them."
Contreras ranked fourth in the National League among cleanup batters with a .305 average. In 31 games there, he had 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.
"We just lost a big part [of the offense]," Kyle Schwarber said. "We've got a lot of confidence in this lineup. The good thing is when someone goes down, we pick him back up. It's obviously not what we wanted to happen. We've got to keep going forward."
Anthony Rizzo may miss Contreras the most since the catcher was batting behind him.
"We're losing the production, we're losing a guy who's high energy, but it's part of the game," Rizzo said. "Obviously it's time for other guys to step up, myself included. It's part of the game. You can't sit here and 'Woe is me' over it."
Maddon said he wasn't exactly sure how he'd split the catching duties between Alex Avila, 30, acquired from the Tigers at the Trade Deadline, and Caratini. This is Caratini's second stint with the Cubs. In 11 games from June 28-Aug. 1, he went 5-for-26 (.192), including a home run on July 30.
Schwarber was ready if needed.
"I went into Joe's office and said, 'I've got my catcher's gear here just in case,' so if it does happen, it happens," Schwarber said.
Contreras sprained his left hamstring during the Arizona Fall League in 2015 but said that injury felt different and more intense than this one to his right leg.
"I just hope my teammates keep doing their job to [keep] the team in first place," Contreras said. "I feel like we're going to make the playoffs and I'll be here supporting them."
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.