Here are five takeaways from Cubs’ spring training Thursday, the second official day of camp.
1. Jon Lester isn’t thinking beyond this season, which he hopes is a return to form.
Lester has an option for 2021 that automatically vests if he pitches 200 innings in 2020. The veteran left-hander hasn’t accomplished that feat since 2016.
Nevertheless, Lester, 36, sets 200 innings as an annual goal and remains focused on rebounding this season. He was 13-10 with a 4.46 ERA in 31 starts in 2019.
“Hopefully I’ll have a good year, and (the contract talk) will be null and void and we (won’t) talk about it. If I don’t, I’m sure we’ll sit down, but I said I’m worried about this year.”
Lester then repeated a line used by friend and former teammate John Lackey.
“And when it's all said and done, you probably won't know it's all said and done,” Lester said. “I just probably won't show back up for spring training the next year.”
Lester said he signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December 2014 with the hope that the 2021 option would take care of itself.
“After that, I can't predict, let alone what's going to happen tomorrow, for two years down the road,” Lester said. “Right now I feel good physically. Obviously that's a big factor in what I decide to do.
“But that can change tomorrow. So, right now, we'll play this year, figure out next when it comes, and figure out the rest when that comes. Right now, I just want to try to win a World Series this year.”
2. David Ross is using Jon Lester as a role model.
David Ross, the Cubs’ new manager, was a teammate of Jon Lester’s with the Cubs in 2015-16 and the Red Sox in 2008 and 2013-14. Lester joked about having experience being pulled from a start by Ross when Ross was catching.
Ross said he will lean on Lester to set an example for the Cubs’ younger pitchers, and not just because of the veteran pitcher’s three World Series rings and 190 wins.
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“His words, his actions carry so much weight in the locker room,” Ross said. “I was there not long ago when it did, and even more so with the young guys in that locker room.
“He sets a great example for those guys, the way he works, the consistency. He’s truly at work when he walks in the door. He comes in with a work mentality. I love it about him.”
3. Adbert Alzolay is in the shape of his life thanks to his new bride and his new diet.
Rookie pitcher Adbert Alzolay has turned heads with a lean frame he credits to a vegetarian diet under the supervision of his new bride, Diana.
“I’ve been feeling perfect,” said Alzolay, who started the diet about the time he got engaged. “I just wanted to try something different this offseason to see what can change.
“And the benefit I’m getting from that diet to my body to my performance, I think it’s really helping me.”
Alzolay said he’s lost 10 pounds and feels “stronger, healthier, more mobile and can recover faster.”
4. Bench coach Andy Green used one Cub as an example for his players.
In addition to organizing workouts, Andy Green has made an instant impact with players. The Cubs’ new bench coach managed the Padres for the last four seasons.
Ross reluctantly shared a story in which Green, then a coach with the Diamondbacks, motivated first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to become a better defender.
”He showed Paul Goldschmidt video of Anthony Rizzo before he won his Gold Glove Award (in 2017),” Ross said. “So that tells you where Andy Green holds some of our players in respect to the other side. That’s a real positive. He’s done a lot for me on other teams and what to expect already.”
5. Jon Lester has turned the page on the Astros sign-stealing scandal.
Jon Lester shrugged when asked about the penalties assessed against the Astros for electronically stealing signs. The Astros tagged Lester for seven runs and eight hits in 5\u2154 innings of a 9-6 Cubs loss on May 28, 2019.
“I think you guys know me well enough that if I knew something was going on, I probably would have walked over and had a conversation with their dugout,” Lester said. “I didn’t hear anything. The Commissioner’s office says otherwise, and like I said, we’ll move on from it.”
“Everybody can point fingers and all they want, but they screwed up. They got punished for it, and now we move on.”