As the Cubs’ opener approaches, Jon Lester continues strong Spring tune-up

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 04: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) is congratulated by his teammates during the MLB Spring Training baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 4, 2018 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, AZ (Photo by Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – This is more like it. This looks like the pitcher ready to lead the Cubs in 2018.

Certainly it looked that way in his three previous starts in Spring Training, and the fourth added some more optimism to fan’s hopes for his performance in 2018.

Jon Lester pitched his longest outing of the spring on Monday night in Goodyear, working into the seventh inning against the Reds.. He did allow nine hits and three runs before being pulled with two outs in the inning, but he remained strong with location as he struck out six and walked just one in a 5-4 Cubs victory.

The performance is likely the second-to-last of Spring Training for Lester, who is expected to get some work before pitching in the Cubs’ opener against the Marlins in Miami on March 29th. So far the body of work has been pretty good.

In four games this spring Lester is 3-1 with 2.81 ERA, with 15 strikeouts compared to just five walks while allowing five earned runs in 16 innings of work. Cubs’ fans feel a bit better about that after an injury-filled 2017 season which Lester finished with a 13-8 record and a 4.33 ERA.

That was a far cry from his 2016 season which he nearly won the Cy Young Award with 19-5 record with a 2.44 ERA.

It’s only the Spring, but it looks as if Lester might be ready to return to form as he enters his fourth seasons in Chicago.