MESA, Ariz. - Jon Lester feels a lot more at ease this spring with the Cubs.
He's not trying to prove he's worth a $155 million contract, he's familiar with his surroundings and he knows his teammates and coaches.
Life is simpler this time around for the 32-year-old Lester.
"You're not the new guy trying to find your way around Arizona, the clubhouse and all that stuff," Lester said. "Now, you're just a teammate and trying to get ready for spring.
"This year is just different. I'm just in a different place - mentally, physically, all this."
Lester said at this time last year, there was plenty of unfamiliarity with the Cubs coaching staff, so pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching/gameplanning coach Mike Borzello were still trying to figure the veteran left-hander out.
"I'm trying to kinda fit in and go about my way," Lester said. "They're not gonna say anything early because they don't know me. They don't know what makes me tick.
"Now, you come in and everybody knows you. You've been through the grind and all that stuff. So it's a little bit easier to make adjustments and really just feel more comfortable."
Lester said he feels even David Ross - the outgoing backup catcher and clubhouse leader - is also more comfortable this spring than in his first season with the Cubs in 2015.
"I already feel more ahead of the game," Lester said. "More into my normal routine as far as spring training as opposed to trying to really go out and fit in and press and make sure that you're good enough to earn what you were given.
"I'm just in a different place mentally and physically. It's a good feeling and hopefully I continue to carry that over."
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Lester is hoping to avoid the dead arm period that plagued him last spring and helped lead to a 6.23 ERA in four April starts, including suffering a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day.
But after April, Lester settled in, going 11-10 with a 2.99 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 183 strikeouts in 183.1 innings over his final 28 regular season starts.
This year, Lester has his best friend - John Lackey - in the clubhouse, Ross is still around and Lester is familiar with Maddon, Bosio and the rest of the coaching staff and roster.
Lester knows his surroundings, he's familiar with where to go in both spring training and at Wrigley Field, he has more help in the rotation and he can prepare this spring knowing he won't have the stress or pressure of starting on Opening Day (Jake Arrieta was tabbed the Cubs' Game 1 starter Tuesday morning).
Lester threw live batting practice to Addison Russell, Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler Tuesday and has one more bullpen session left before his first spring start that will come sometime next week.