CHICAGO – Like pitcher, like catcher, even if the latter has a different role with the club this time around.
It makes sense that Jon Lester would answer a question on the value of a World Series title in a shortened season similar to the way David Ross did a few weeks back.
“If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it,” said the new Cubs’ manager when asked if there was any shine taken away from a championship if won in just a 60-game campaign.
Lester, who is now pitching under Ross instead of with him as a pitcher-catcher batter, had a very, very similar answer when asked if the value of a title is diminished in 2020.
“No,” said Lester on Saturday. “A trophy is a trophy. I don’t care if its 60 games, you still have to win, you still have to play good baseball. It’s not like they’re just handing them out at the end, like ‘Hey, here’s your participation trophy because you guys showed up this year.’
“That’s not the case.”
If it was, why would Lester even be here?
After all, he does fall into the category of an “at-risk” player since he’s survived a battle with cancer early in his career. Yet the veteran left-hander, who’ll enter his sixth season with the Cubs and 15th in Major League Baseball this summer, is confident in his health and the protocols from the league to give it a go for 60-games.
“I think we’re all a little nervous, you know. Nobody wants to get this thing. I think you have to just believe in the testing process, you have to believe in the ‘bubble’ community we’re trying to create here,” said Lester of weighing the risks of playing during the pandemic.
Now that he’s here, Lester will be looking to use this “sprint” of a season to regain some of the form he had in year’s past for the club. In the second half of 2019, he finished 5-4 with a 5.35 ERA as the Cubs failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season.
Having a four-month layoff between spring training and summer camp doesn’t help, but Lester stuck to his own routine to stay game-ready.
“The big thing for me was to just stay physically active,” said Lester of the gap between March and July. “Not necessarily on the pitching side of things but just in the weight room, keeping my arm moving that way. As we’ve gotten closer; obviously I kept my ears to the ground, talked to ‘Rossy’ and Tommy (Hottovy) quite a bit about programs and different of things like that.
“As we started kinda getting word that we were building working towards this, I started picking up the ball and throwing and move in that way. I just had a hard time, and we talked about it quite a bit, I had a hard time just diving into going and trying to throw bullpens or trying to throw innings and simulate that. I figured if I kept my body in shape and kept my arm going that I would be fine when we got to this stage, it would just be a little slower.
“I feel like we’ve done that, and I feel in a good place.”
Sunday he’ll take the mound for part of a simulation game as he gets into game shape like he’s done the last decade-and-a-half. Just like he has then, both with and without Ross, his mind will be on a ring that still very much matters.