With Cubs’ southpaw Jon Lester set to make his first appearance on the mound in a scrimmage setting on Sunday afternoon, the veteran is just looking to get a couple innings under his belt and get into a regular routine of taking the ball every fifth day as we approach the 2020 season in just under two weeks.
“I’m just continuing to try and build, my BP session the other day went well and I came out of it feeling well,” Lester said. “Once you get over that hump the first time and get on that five day schedule, then it’s just a matter of getting your reps.”
As for how the 36-year-old handled staying prepared during the quarantine period, it was largely a wait and see approach.
“I think the big thing was trying to stay active,” Lester said. “Not necessarily on the pitching side of things but just in the weight room, and keeping my arm going that way.”
“As we started getting word that we were moving towards this, I started picking up the ball and throwing.”
“I had a hard time diving into going and trying to throw bullpens and trying to throw innings and simulate that. I figured that if I kept my body in shape, and I kept my arm going, that I’d be fine when we got to this stage, it would just be a little bit slower.”
Despite Lester taking a cautious approach to gearing up for the looming abbreviated season, he’s confident that he’s ready to go in 2020. Heading into his 15th major-league season, Lester is confident in his approach during the downtime for a couple of reasons.
“I think it’s multiple factors,” Lester said. “One of them is that I know my body, and I know what I need to do when I get here and get ready. Number two is that I’m a little bit older, and I didn’t want to ramp up at home and then have to almost turn around and sit again.”
While the headlines of ‘Summer Camp’ have been dominated by COVID-19 opt-outs, testing issues, and concerns over the sustainability of the abbreviated 2020 schedule, Lester stressed that he’s just trusting the process and protocols in place.
“I think we’re all a little nervous,” Lester said. “You don’t want to get this thing [COVID-19]. I think you have to just believe in the testing process, you have to believe in the bubble community we’re trying to create here. You know you have to believe in these things. There’s a lot of stuff where you’re just putting yourself out there and kind of hoping.”
“One thing you guys probably have seen, and obviously I know it from playing with him [David Ross] for so long, is his attitude,” Lester said. “That just filters down, and then obviously the energy that he brings with everything.”
Lester joked about Ross being amped up even on their Zoom calls during the quarantine and lead-up to the restart of workouts a few weeks ago.
Obviously, enthusiasm can only get you to a certain point, but Lester isn’t worried about Ross when it comes to managing a ballgame, and pointed out that as a long-time catcher, he’s been managing much of the games he’s played in throughout his career in some capacity.
“I’m not worried about the managing side,” Lester said. “It’s just nice to see the energy and excitement. He cares, and he walks around with a pep in his step, and like I said, it rubs off on us and makes us enjoy our day.”
Lester stressed that the unique 60-game schedule in 2020 will require the Cubs to get off to a hot start in a couple of weeks, and scoffed at the idea that the eventual World Series Championship will lack legitimacy due to the situation at hand.
“A trophy’s, a trophy,” Lester said. “I don’t care if it’s 60 games. You still have to win, you still have to play good baseball, it’s not like they’re just handing them out at the end.”
“We have to go out there and there’s a lot of good teams, not only in this new division that we’re playing in, but there’s obviously good teams throughout the league that you have to go through to get to that point.”
“If you play well and get off to a good start, that is only going to help you towards the playoffs,” Lester said. “Like I said, a trophy is a trophy and a ring is still a ring and I’m still fighting for that. I don’t care if it’s 60 games or 190 games. Whatever it is, you still have to play well to get that trophy.”
Lester also had some thoughts on the new universal designated hitter rule, jokingly claiming that the rule won’t, or shouldn’t apply to him.
“I told Rossy that I’m hitting in the games I’m pitching,” Lester said. “I don’t know what he wants to do there, but you’re taking a pretty big force out of the lineup if we’re going to the DH every five days.”
Joking aside, Lester is excited that the new rule — if adopted permanently — will provide 15 new jobs across the National League.
Feature Photo: Gregory Bull – AP