Cubs

John Lackey analyzes his first spring start in typical John Lackey fashion

John Lackey analyzes his first spring start in typical John Lackey fashion

MESA, Ariz. — A reporter joked with Joe Maddon Tuesday morning that John Lackey would probably just come out in his first spring start and throw 25 fastballs, to which the Cubs manager laughed and agreed.

That's almost exactly how it played out at Sloan Park Tuesday afternoon in an exhibition against Team Italy (meaning the stats don't count toward official Cactus League stats, which also don't really "count").

Lackey tossed approximately 30 pitches in two innings in his spring debut, throwing only one breaking ball and the rest fastballs.

Since this game didn't count (not that other spring training games do, of course) and because Lackey is the king of one-liners and has been through this song-and-dance in spring training so many times before (15, to be exact), let's just hear the one-of-a-kind 38-year-old break down his own debut:

Feel

How did he feel his first time out?

"I felt good," Lackey said. "Obviously, the first one out of the gate, just trying to throw some fastballs and build up the arm strength and it's a good one to keep moving forward on."

Lackey said the first couple starts at this point in the year are always about building up arm strength after a winter off.

"That's pretty much it. Honestly, the first couple times, the pregame warmup is almost more important than what happens in the game. I'm working on things in the 'pen and when you get in the game, just firing some fastballs, trying to get that arm strength going."

Stuff

Did he analyze his stuff on the radar gun?

*shrugs* "I don't look at the gun in June."

Pitch count

Does he know how many pitches he threw?

"Doesn't matter. Whatever. I got about a month to go before it matters."

So he doesn't know the number of pitches?

"Make something up. Who cares?"

Age

At age 38, the guy who said he would announce his retirement simply by not showing up the next season is still out here to compete.

He said at this point in his career, he enjoys going to team dinners and hanging out in the clubhouse and ragging on guys, but he could do without the shagging of flyballs during batting practice and won't miss the workouts.

"The between starts get harder as you get older," he said. "The workouts and that kinda stuff. But when you're out on the field competing, that's still a lot of fun. The other stuff is a little tougher the older you get. But it's necessary for you to compete at a high level."

He also said he feels better now — after the Tommy John surgery he had in 2011 — than he did before the procedure.

Opponent

Does he like pitching in exhibition games as the opposition gets geared up to play in the World Baseball Classic?

"Honestly, it's spring training. It doesn't matter who's up there. I kinda got a routine on what I do from my first start, the second start and the last probably two starts before the season, I'll pitch pretty much with everything and then go get 'em."

World Series swag

A pair of World Series boots created a murmur at Cubs camp Tuesday morning:

As if anybody needed confirmation: Yes, Lackey did get a pair of those boots.

"Of course I did," he said. "I'm not even sure how many pair of boots I have, honestly."

Lackey also has a similar pair after winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

As for his Cubs World Series ring once he gets that next month, he will not prominently display it. That piece of jewelry will go in a box in his closet...along with his regular wedding ring (he wears a rubber one most of the time, like most athletes due to lifting and on-field activities), the Red Sox championship ring and the 2002 World Series ring with the Angels.

"I got a rubber wedding ring, for goodness' sake. I'm not a huge, flasy kinda guy. It's gonna be awesome to have, for sure. If I'm going to a wedding or I have to put on a tux, I'll wear one of 'em. That's about it."

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.