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."

Cubs free agent Nick Castellanos reportedly agrees to deal with Reds

Cubs free agent Nick Castellanos reportedly agrees to deal with Reds

Yesterday, it was reported that the Reds were the favorite to ink Cubs free agent right fielder Nick Castellanos. On Monday, it appears those two sides have reached an agreement on a multi-year deal, per The Athletic's C. Trent Rosencrans and Ken Rosenthal: 

Given the Cubs' desire to steer clear of the luxury tax in 2020, the odds of a reunion with Castellanos were always low. The club's recent signing of outfielder Steven Souza only furthered that belief.

To lose him to a divison rival, though, undoubtedly stings, especially considering the gumption with which the Reds have approached the offseason. Cincinnati has also notably added Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Wade Miley this winter.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the deal is for $64 million over four years and added that the deal includes at least one opt-out.

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Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

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USA TODAY

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

The odds of a Cubs-Nick Castellanos reunion happening have seemed slim all offseason. Although they've been connected to him at various points this winter, bringing back the fan favorite right fielder would require some serious financial gymnastics for the North Siders.

With the Cubs cognizant of the luxury tax, the division rival Reds have emerged as the favorite to sign Castellanos, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi.

The Reds have emerged as the frontrunner to sign free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, one source said Sunday, and there are indications the sides have made progress over the past several days. While Cincinnati is now the favorite to sign Castellanos, the Giants also have negotiated with the 27-year-old in recent weeks.

Because of their desire to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, the Cubs have only made low-cost acquisitions this winter. They were penalized $7.6 million for eclipsing the threshold in 2019; if they do so in 2020, they'll be taxed 30 percent on their overages —  and see their 2021 draft pick drop 10 spots, if they go over the figure by $40 million.

At this point, the only realistic scenario where the Cubs re-sign Castellanos is if they shed salary. However, they've reportedly signed outfielder Steven Souza to a one-year deal, giving them five outfielders (along with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward). That might be the biggest indicator of a reunion not being in the cards.

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