DENVER — Welcome to Chicago, Jon Lester.
It only took one game into a six-year, $155 million contract before the storyline became the new Cubs ace having “the yips.” This after a spring training that had the All-Star lefty working through a “dead arm.”
While Lester is probably right when he says that the issue has been blown out of proportion, it’s also not going away. Not with Billy Hamilton and the Cincinnati Reds coming into Wrigley Field. Whether or not Lester throws over to first base on Monday night will be a big question mark.
“It makes for great reading,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday at Coors Field. “For what you guys and ladies do, it’s perfect. You get to write stuff, and people are going to read it.
“Listen, I grew up in barrooms, and I know what it’s like. You need some good stuff in a barroom to carry on a conversation.
“So chew on it. In the meantime, it’s up to us to rectify everything and make it better. (But) I’m onboard with all that stuff. I love it.”
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Think Hamilton would like a shot at running against Lester? Cincinnati’s leadoff guy has stolen seven bases through his first five games this season. He stole 56 bases last year (and got caught 23 times). He put up 395 stolen bases in the minors (155 in 2012).
“Game-planning-wise, what do you do? You keep the guy off base, obviously,” Maddon said. “And then if you can’t, you have to minimize damage after that.”
ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” crew magnified Lester’s issues during a 3-0 loss on Opening Night, when the St. Louis Cardinals went 3-for-4 in stealing bases against him (though that included a double steal).
Whatever this is, it didn’t stop Lester from winning two World Series rings at Fenway Park — and it didn’t stop the Boston Red Sox from offering him $135 million guaranteed.
We’ll see if Hamilton can get in Lester’s head.
“Don’t let one guy take you out of your whole gig,” Maddon said. “It’s one run possibly, potentially. But I think sometimes pitchers will get enamored with that. And then all of a sudden, they stop focusing. You got to maintain your focus on getting the hitter out while you’re attempting to slow down the running game.”