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Willson Contreras had some fun on his trot around the bases on Friday afternoon out in Arizona. The Cubs’ catcher flipped his bat, pointed to the heavens around first and did some slow exaggerated strides into third base on his way home.

That second-inning homer in Chicago’s 6-1 win over the A’s was just the latest example of Contreras’ high-energy play as one of baseball’s elite all-around catchers. His status with the Cubs is cemented. What the team Stitched Chicago Cubs Jerseys needs to solve before Opening Day is who will serve as the All-Star’s backup.

It looks like that job could wind up in the hands of P.J. Higgins.

“Higgy is a guy that we’ve talked [about] a couple times already,” Cubs manager David Ross said on Friday morning. “He’s made an impression on me.”

With less than two weeks left until the Cubs’ April 1 opener against the Pirates, it is looking increasingly improbable that veteran catcher Austin Romine (right knee sprain) will be ready. And on Friday, Chicago reassigned Jose Lobaton to Minor League camp, leaving Higgins as the de facto backup in Romine’s absence.

Willson Contreras’ solo home run
Mar 20, 2021 · 0:30
Willson Contreras’ solo home run
Romine last played on March 6, while Higgins has started the five non-Contreras Cactus League games since that depth setback. Higgins has caught Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies twice each, including the latter’s four-inning start (one unearned run, four hits, three walks and two strikeouts) against Oakland on Friday. Higgins has also caught starts by Alec Mills and Trevor Williams.

In some recent games, Higgins was instructed to follow scouting reports for specific batters. Ross was impressed by how the 27-year-old catcher handled those tests.

“I love his ability to run a game behind the plate,” Ross said. “He’s really taken to it.”

Higgins — not currently on the 40-man roster — has been in MLB camp with the Cubs for the past few springs, and Ross also got to know the catcher during Summer Camp last year. Beyond catching, Higgins also offers a backup option for both infield corners, and has even logged innings at second base.

“He’s got great hands,” Ross said. “If you listen to the people around in player development, he’s one of the better third basemen we have in the organization, just as far as reliability on defense.”

Ross also praised Higgins’ communication and feedback with pitchers, as well as the catcher’s ability to make consistent contact in the batter’s box. All of these traits have positioned Higgins to make the Opening Day roster, if Romine’s injury lingers.