ST. LOUIS – The Cubs can at least rule out John Lackey turning into Grandpa Lackey and doing a David Ross-style retirement tour, going on “Dancing with the Stars” and writing a book that turns into a movie where Bill Murray plays manager Joe Maddon.
Jon Lester tipped off Lackey’s future plans during Wednesday night’s postgame toast inside Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, saluting what was probably the final regular-season start of a career that earned him three World Series rings and roughly $140 million, according to the Baseball-Reference salary database.
Lackey ended September with a 2.51 ERA in five starts, beating the St. Louis Cardinals and earning the win that clinched a National League Central title, setting the stage for a best-of-five battle against the Washington Nationals.
Could a strong finish and big-game experience create a spot in a playoff rotation that already appears to be full with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana?
“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Maddon said Thursday. “Jonny Lester came up to all of the coaches and said, ‘Listen, I want to do this.’ I thought it was a great tribute. You could see how sincere he was in regards to how he feels about Johnny Lackey.
“John does all the little histrionics on the field on occasion. But when you’re with him all the time, and when he’s actually not performing, he’s an entirely different person. Watch him with his family and his kids, he’s really a softie outside of what you see on the field. You could understand where Johnny Lester was coming from.
“I’m not prepared to say anything about the roster yet. We’re just going to continue to talk about it. We haven’t really sat down and decided anything yet.”
It’s not just that the Cubs are trying to avoid an awkward conversation with Lackey. Lester hasn’t looked sharp since the All-Star break (4.79 ERA), struggling to regain his feel and command after spending two-plus weeks on the disabled list with left lat tightness/general shoulder fatigue.
Lester – who will start Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field – has given up 32 hits and 14 walks in 27.1 innings this month. Arrieta still has to test his right hamstring again and make it through Sunday’s Game 162. Meaning the Cubs may need Lackey in case of emergency or use him in a scripted piggyback role.
“Now you get to take your time and really analyze what you think is right,” Maddon said. “We got to play this all the way through, make sure that these guys are healthy, and then you make your best decisions.”