Left-hander Jon Lester wants to take care of some business before making his seventh career opening-day start March 29 at Miami.
Specifically, Lester would like to find his rhythm from a full windup more consistently than he did Tuesday in his spring training debut against the White Sox.
“That’s what spring training is for,” Lester said after requesting to pitch a second inning and finishing with 31 pitches thrown.
Lester described his opening-day assignment as “pretty cool,” adding it’s probably the earliest he has been told he would pitch the opener.
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged the order of the Cubs’ rotation, which has yet to be announced, will be aligned according to the schedule for the first month. That means the Cubs will stack their rotation with right-handers against the Brewers on April 5-8, but Maddon gushed about Lester’s leadership role as one of the factors in naming him to start against the Marlins.
Lester downplayed Maddon’s praise, citing an upbeat clubhouse vibe.
“I’ve gotten older and they’ve grown up,” Lester said of his teammates. “So I think they feel more comfortable in who they are. A lot of the other guys feel (as if) they fit in their role a little bit more. Our clubhouse has a pretty good vibe.
“Everyone is communicating (and) they’re on the same page. Everyone is getting their work done quickly and very efficiently. I haven’t noticed much difference in myself, but other people have.”
Lester has noticed a sense of urgency after the Cubs got off to a slow start in 2017 “that put us behind the 8-ball.”
“I don’t think we really realized that until the end of the year,” Lester said. “Now everyone seems good and crisp, and that goes for me personally.”
Fellow left-hander Jose Quintana endorsed the selection of Lester: “I think we’re in good hands.”