Jon Lester’s prep helping the Cubs on and off the field
Since Jon Lester signed with the Cubs in 2015, he’s compiled quite the statistical resume.
There’s the obvious World Series title in 2016; but then there’s the two All-Star Game appearances, the 74-41 record, the 898 strikeouts and the 3.54 ERA in his five seasons with the Cubs.
There’s also something, often unseen, that he brought to Wrigley Field since he joined the team.
“The routine he has when he comes in here, he doesn’t shy away from that routine or vary from that routine,” David Ross, his former catcher and now manager, said. “His resume speaks for itself of what he’s done, but … what he’s done outside the field, I think he’s influenced this organization as a whole in a really good way.”
So, it shouldn’t come as a shocker that Lester stuck to a stringent workout routine during baseball’s nearly-four-month layoff. Lester focused on keeping his strength in the weight room while the game was shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also focused on not throwing as much until he had a sense that a return to baseball was close.
The reason for doing it was twofold.
“I think one of them, I know my body and I know what I kinda need to do when I get here and get ready,” Lester said via conference call on Saturday morning. “Two is, yeah, I’m a little bit older. I didn’t wanna ramp up at home and then almost have to turn around and sit again.”
So, while fellow rotation arms Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills have all started intrasquad games and Lester hasn’t, it doesn’t mean he’s any less prepared than the rest. He’s thrown live bullpen sessions and has been keeping his arm strong with Opening Day less than two weeks away. He’ll make his “intrasquad debut” in Sunday afternoon’s scrimmage.
“I think, now, we go into tomorrow … a normal spring progression where I can build off of these two innings,” Lester said. “I think once you get over that hump of the first time, you get on that five-day schedule, then it’s just a matter of going out there and getting your reps and getting it more or less showing up for those days, and I think everything will be good to go.”
Then the emphasis is strictly on winning. Lester chuckled at the notion that whoever wins the World Series this season might have an asterisk or that the title might in some way be devalued.
“A trophy’s a trophy. I don’t care if it’s 60 games,” Lester said. “You still have to win. You still have to play good baseball.
“You still have to show up. You still have to play well, and you still have to do your job in order to get that trophy, to get that ring. That’s still important to us, still important to me.”
Lester will have the ability to help the Cubs do that off the field and on the mound. But this season, he won’t be able to do it with his bat.
“I told Rossy that I’m hitting in the games I’m pitching, so I don’t know what he wants to do there, but you know, you’re taking a pretty big force out of the lineup if we’re going to the DH every five days,” Lester said with a chuckle.