Cubs

Cubs see Jon Lester trending in the right direction

tonylestah042415.png

Cubs see Jon Lester trending in the right direction

Has Jon Lester turned a corner with the Cubs?

The $155-million ace wasn't willing to go that far after Friday night's outing against the Reds, but he and the Cubs saw some positive signs that could point to a turnaround.

Lester picked up a no-decision in the 11-inning 7-3 Cubs win, but did collect his first quality start with the new team, going six innings and allowing three runs on five hits and a walk. He struck out 10 while throwing 104 pitches, lowering his ERA (6.23) and WHIP (1.57) in the process.

That's a step up from his first three starts, in which he gave up 12 earned runs and 24 hits in 15.2 innings.

"His last two innings were his best," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I keep saying - it's getting better, better, better. It's trending in the right direction. He felt really good. I think he had a lot of fun tonight, which is a good thing."

[MORE: Cardiac Cubs strike again, top Reds in extras]

Lester got out to a rough start, surrendering a single to Reds speed demon Billy Hamilton to lead off the first inning. Hamilton immediately stole second, scooted to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a Joey Votto groundout.

It was Hamilton again in the third, who led off with another single, stole second and third and then scored on a Brandon Phillips groundout.

But Lester settled in after that, allowing only a solo run in the fourth - on a sacrifice fly by Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart - and retired the final nine hitters he faced.

"After about the second inning, I got in a little better rhythm," Lester said. "Kept some guys off the bases. That's been kind of the thing that's been plaguing me - just the continued baserunners.

"It was a lot better. Had a better feel for my cutter tonight. I'm learning. New league, new faces, new guys, kind of figuring it out as we go and keep adjusting."

[MORE: Bryant, Stanton and the popularity of power prospects]

Lester was sidelined for part of spring training with a "dead arm" period and Maddon believes that has played a factor in the southpaw's slow start. The Cubs manager also admitted Lester may have been feeling some pressure from the megadeal he signed as a free agent over the winter.

Lester said he has gotten back on the right track by focusing on the task at hand, instead of looking at the past start or the next outing coming up.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "It's a constant adjustment for me right now. We'll take what I did five days ago into today and what I did today into the next one and we'll just keep building.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs convention will feel different this year

cubs_logo_on_deck_circle_usa_today.png
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs convention will feel different this year

Jeff Nelson, Tim Stebbins, and Tony Andracki fill in for host David Kaplan as they discuss how different this year's Cubs convention will be compared to previous years and how awkward it will be for Kris Bryant and other players who could be traded before the season. They also get into baseball's cheating issue, and Tony Andracki makes a huge announcement.

(1:08) - Different feel at Cubs Con

(3:10) - Cubs putting Kris Bryant in an awkward spot

(4:44) - Anthony Rizzo says he might not be a Cub long term

(6:33) - How will Cubs fans show displeasure at Cubs Con

(10:24) - What will it take for Sammy Sosa to be accepted by the Cubs

(13:54) - Baseball's cheating scandal is spreading

(20:07) - Tony Andracki's BIG announcement

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Subscribe: Apple/iPhone | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Art 19

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Cubs grant Astros permission to interview Will Venable for managerial opening

will_venable.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs grant Astros permission to interview Will Venable for managerial opening

In the wake of their infamous sign-stealing scandal, the Astros could look to the North Side to fill their suddenly vacant managerial seat.

According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs have granted the Astros permission to interview Will Venable for manager.

MLB conducted a thorough investigation into a report from The Athletic stating the Astros electronically stole signs during their 2017 championship season. The findings resulted in general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch receiving year-long suspensions Monday before the Astros subsequently fired both from their respective posts.

RELATED: David Ross and Anthony Rizzo react to Astros cheating scandal, subsequent fallout

Venable joined the Cubs in September 2017 as a special assistant in the front office. He joined the on-field staff as first base coach in 2018, a position he held through last season. The 37-year-old also spent time as third base coach when Brian Butterfield dealt with health issues in 2019.

The Cubs named Venable third base coach this offseason following Butterfield’s departure to Joe Maddon’s Angels. Prior to that, Venable interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial opening — which went to David Ross — as well as the Giants’ opening, which went to former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

The Astros have already reportedly interviewed Buck Showalter for manager and are set to meet with John Gibbons, too.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.