‘It’s awesome’: What Jon Lester’s advice meant to Justin Steele
It’s been two seasons since Jon Lester pitched a game for the Cubs but the World Series legend is still helping the club on the field.
The southpaw reached out to David Ross recently and shared some advice for the Cubs manager about what he had seen from fellow lefty Justin Steele on the mound.
“Rossy just called me into his office and said that Jon had texted him and had a few tips for me,” Steele told Taylor McGregor Wednesday. “The main thing was just commanding that 4-seam down and in to the righties and it would open everything else back up for me.
“Because then the 4[-seam] up plays better, the slider down and in to the back foot to the righties started playing better and it just kinda opens everything up in my repertoire.”
The advice paid immediate dividends for Steele as he tied a career high with 7 innings against the Cardinals Sunday night at Wrigley Field. He permitted 2 runs (1 earned) and dropped his ERA down to 4.79 on the season.
Steele and Lester crossed paths in the majors very briefly. While Lester was finishing out his career with the Cubs in August of 2020, Steele was called up for 4 days from the alternate site but was sent back down before appearing in a game.
The 26-year-old Steele made his MLB debut last April and emerged as a major piece for the Cubs pitching staff — first out of the bullpen and then in the rotation.
He has made 11 starts for the team in 2022 as he navigates his first full season in the majors.
The advice from Lester meant the world to him.
“It’s awesome,” Steele said. “Jon’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my eyes. For him to be watching me and think to give me some tips and some pointers I think is really cool and pretty special.”
Ross has had a longstanding relationship with Lester dating back to their days playing together in Boston. Both veterans arrived in Chicago as a tandem ahead of the 2015 season and helped end the 108-year championship drought the following fall.
“Whenever you get any kind of advice from a guy like Jon Lester, I try to pass that along,” Ross told McGregor Tuesday. “He’s been clear that he’s not the pitching coach and knows his place but we just wanted to pass along some friendly advice that he dealt with early in his career and thought Justin could use it.”