Cubs

John Lackey has no interest in a David Ross-style retirement tour with Cubs: 'I just won't show up the next year'

John Lackey has no interest in a David Ross-style retirement tour with Cubs: 'I just won't show up the next year'

MESA, Ariz. — John Lackey didn't come here for a victory lap or a David Ross-style farewell from Cubs fans, the national media and Corporate America.

"Not a chance," Lackey said Thursday morning. "There will be no retirement tour. I just won't show up the next year."

Don't expect to see "Grandpa Lackey" trending on Twitter and all over Instagram, though he did seem amused by how his good friend and former catcher has appeared on "The Ellen Show," gotten a book deal, signed on with ESPN, joined Theo Epstein's front office as a special assistant and booked "Dancing with the Stars."

"He's doing everything possible," Lackey said. "I don't think that dude said 'no' to anything yet. He's enjoying himself, for sure."

At the age of 38, Lackey enjoys being an old-school enforcer on the mound, occasionally grumpy with reporters and oblivious to what's being written and said about him. He's in the second season of a two-year, $32 million contract and will get his third World Series ring in April.

"I feel great," Lackey said. "I'm just playing this year. See what happens at the end of the year. If I still feel good, keep playing."

Standing in front of his locker at the Sloan Park complex and looking back on his 2016 season as a whole, Lackey took a passive-aggressive shot at manager Joe Maddon during his first extended media session this spring.

"Until I had the little time on the DL, I was about as good as I've ever been, honestly," Lackey said. "I had to warm up a couple times in extra innings. Probably didn't help. That probably ended up getting me. Yeah, I wish that wouldn't have happened. Let's see where it might have gone."

[MORE CUBS: The Decision: Cubs name Jon Lester team's Opening Day starter]

Lackey went on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness in the middle of August and finished at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.057 WHIP, just missing the 200-inning mark (188.1). The guy who didn't come here for a haircut got two no-decisions and a loss in his three playoff starts, becoming a four- or five-inning pitcher.

"He was going good last year until we attempted to bring him into a couple games by warming him up," Maddon said. "I believe there's a lot of good baseball left in him. I just think last year I screwed it up by permitting him to warm up.

"In the moment, it didn't (bother him). But I think it's a cumulative situation. It does come back and bite you in the arm. You're trying to win the game, here's this guy that says 'I can do it,' the days looked right regarding when he had pitched previously. But that is something I should not permit."

Lackey skipped going to Washington with his teammates for President Barack Obama's final official White House event: "I was at a charity event, honestly. Just had a prior deal." Lackey had visited the White House for ceremonies honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels and 2013 Boston Red Sox and understands what the Cubs will face as defending World Series champs.

"It's hard to win one, much less two," Lackey said. "It's a tough thing to do, but I think this is unique, just with the youth in this room. We're going to have a lot of guys that are still young, still hungry and not tired, I guess."

With Lackey thinking about disappearing to Texas at some point, Jake Arrieta awaiting free agency and the fifth starter an open question, the Cubs could be looking at a one-year window before a dramatic overhaul.

"I don't think we think that far ahead," Lackey said. "I'm trying to be good my next start. Whatever happens next year is, kind of, who cares?"

Lackey's spring debut is supposed to be Tuesday in Mesa against Team Italy in a World Baseball Classic tune-up.

"We'll see," Lackey said. "We'll see if it fits into my golf schedule."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

Luke Stuckmeyer sits down with Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg for a wide-ranging conversation centered around the infamous "Sandberg Game."

Ryne gives insight into his feelings upon being traded to the Cubs (2:00), and discusses the reason he ended up with the No. 23 (5:00). Plus, how the 1984 season changed everything and raised his personal expectations sky-high (9:00) and the "Daily Double" dynamic between him and Bob Dernier (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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'He belongs here': What to expect from top prospect Adbert Alzolay's first major league start

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USA Today

'He belongs here': What to expect from top prospect Adbert Alzolay's first major league start

A big part of the Cubs’ MO during the Epstein Era has been the team’s reliance on veteran pitchers. Whether it’s Jon Lester’s cutter, Cole Hamels’ changeup, or Jose Quintana’s sinker, it’s been a while since other teams have had to step into the box against a Cubs starter without much of a scouting report. On the surface, uncertainty from a starting pitcher may sound like a bad thing, but it’s that same apprehension that makes Cubs’ prospect Adbert Alzolay’s first major league start so exciting. 

“There’s energy when you know the guy’s good,” Joe Maddon said before Tuesday’s game. “There’s absolutely energy to be derived. But there’s also curiosity. Let’s see if this is real or not. I think he answered that call.” 

The good news for Alzolay and the Cubs is that much of the usual baggage that comes with one’s first major league start is already out of the way. All of the milestones that can get into a young pitchers head -- first strikeout, first hit, first home run allowed, etc -- took place during Alzolay’s four-inning relief appearance back against the Mets on June 20th. 

“I want to believe that that would help,” Maddon added. “It was probably one of the best ways you could break in someone like that. We had just the ability to do it because of the way our pitching was set up, and I think going into tonight’s game, there’s less unknown for him.”

It also helps that Alzolay will have fellow Venezuelan countryman Willson Contreras behind the plate calling his first game. There’s even a sense of novelty from Contreras’ end too. 

“[Catching someone’s debut] is really fun for me,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s a big challenge for me today. I’m looking forward to it. I’m really proud of Alzolay, and I know where he comes from - I know him from Venezuela. It’s going to be fun.”

Tuesday's plan for Alzolay doesn’t involve a specific innings limit. Maddon plans to let the rookie go as long as he can before he “gets extended, or comes out of his delivery,” as the manager put it. On the mound, he’s a flyball pitcher with good control that works quickly. Expect to see a healthy dosage of 4-seamers that sit in the mid-90’s alongside a curveball and changeup that have both seen improvements this year. 

Against the Mets, it was his changeup was the most effective strikeout pitch he had going, with three of his five K’s coming that way. It’s typically not considered his best offspeed offering, but as Theo Epstein put it on Monday afternoon, “[Alzolay] was probably too amped and throwing right through the break,” of his curveball that day.  

It’s obviously good news for the Cubs if he continues to flash three plus pitches, long the barometer of a major league starter versus a bullpen guy. Even if he doesn’t quite have the feel for all three yet, it’s his beyond-the-years demeanor that has those within the organization raving. 

“The confidence he showed during his first time on the mound, as a young pitcher, that’s a lot,” Contreras said. “That’s who he can be, and the command that he has of his pitches is good, especially when he’s able to go to his third pitch.”