MESA, Ariz. — It was baseball’s version of a peace summit. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero finally cleared the air, months after Montero was critical of his skipper in an ESPN Radio interview the day the Cubs celebrated their World Series victory.
On Monday night, they got away from the clubhouse to clear the air over an Italian dinner in north Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We both wanted to talk to each other,” Montero said Tuesday. “This is 2017. We turn the page. We both agreed on that. All I said was, ‘Let me in. I want to be part of it. You can trust me.’”
Montero has slowly seen his career transition from being a starting catcher to a backup — eventually becoming pitcher Jake Arrieta’s primary receiver last season. But when Maddon turned to rookie Willson Contreras to catch Arrieta in the playoffs, Montero bristled at the lack of communication.
Both parties say that’s now in the past, and they got together to do more than just hash it out and break bread.
“It was about [the] present and the future,” Maddon said.
Montero, 33, is accepting his role as Contreras’ backup this year, probably his last as a Cub. While Montero’s contract will bring him $14 million in 2017, he wants to continue playing baseball beyond this season. He also doesn’t want to be known as a clubhouse cancer. He told Maddon he’s willing to do whatever the manager asks.
“I got a lot off my chest because I care so much for the game,” Montero said. “I care so much for the team, whatever it takes for me to help. If Wilson needs a break and [Clayton] Kershaw is pitching for the other team, put me in. That’s my job. I accept it.”
This year, Maddon needs Montero as much as Montero needs Maddon. With veteran catcher David Ross now in retirement, there’s a void in the locker room. Montero is even more valuable to the team considering he’s bilingual. The catcher is tight with the Cubs’ Latin relievers, earning praise from Maddon for his handling of righty Pedro Strop as recently as Tuesday morning.
“He can be such a valuable liaison between coaches and the room,” Maddon said. “He’s looking forward to it.”
Montero admitted that his situation weighed on him during the short offseason. Both parties were asked often during the winter if there would be a meeting of the minds. Montero preferred it happened away from the Cubs’ spring training facility, so when Maddon invited the catcher to dinner, he jumped at the chance. Montero picked a low-key Italian restaurant.
“The food was good,” Montero smiled. “I think he liked it.”
Montero felt so good about the dinner that he insisted they take a picture to share on social media.
— Miguel Montero (@miggymont26) February 21, 2017
“I want to let the people know it’s going to be a great year,” Montero said. “I went to bed and slept so good. I felt amazing. He probably did too because we’re a team. We have one goal in common.”
Maddon concurred things went well as both parties spoke of 2017 more than about anything that happened last season.
“We talked about now,” Maddon said. “We talked about winning another World Series together. It was about moving forward.
“It was really a good night for both of us.”