SURPRISE, Ariz. — Who?

Jon Lester pretended he didn't know who a reporter was talking about in regards to a question about former personal catcher David Ross' upcoming spin on "Dancing with the Stars."

That's how much Lester cares — at least outwardly — about which catcher he's working with right now.

Lester made his spring debut Sunday, throwing two innings to Willson Contreras, giving up two runs on three hits with a strikeout. Lester has spent most of the last four years throwing exclusively to Ross, who is soaking up the limelight in retirement.

Last season, Lester threw three innings to Contreras across the span of two games and while the results were not encouraging — he allowed five runs on five hits and four walks — Lester believes a full spring of reps with the young catcher will help.

"Willy does a great job," Lester said. "I think it was hard on him coming in last year and not really catching a lot of guys and being a part of getting to know us and just getting thrown into the situation.

"Now we get to do a full spring with him. Obviously spring training is a little different — you don't have a scouting report, you don't have anything to go off of. You're just trying to go out there and trying to get through it and see what he feels comfortable with back there.

"I'll shake to some pitches here and there, but mainly just let him go about his deal and we'll figure it out. It's just a matter of throwing and innings and pitches and all that stuff. I'm not concerned with it at all.

 

"Willy's such a good kid and he cares and he wants to learn, he wants to get better. I don't see any reason why this is ever going to be an issue for anybody."

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Lester also balked at any notion of the running game emerging as a thorn in his side with Ross — who was adept at throwing out runners and fielding bunts in front of home plate, even in his age-39 season — now in the Cubs front office.

But remember: Contreras is the catcher the Cubs went to in the World Series when they wanted to slow down the Cleveland Indians' aggressive run game, as he drew every start behind the plate besides the times Ross was paired up with Lester.

"I forgot how good of an arm he's got until that throw down to second base," Lester said. "I gotta remember to get the hell out of the way. It's coming by pretty quick.

"It's definitely impressive to see him and his abilities. I don't think it will be an issue. Willy will take care of it."

As for how he feels after his first time throwing in a game since the World Series clincher, the 33-year-old lefty said he was mostly "just trying to get through it."

He felt good warming up, sitting back down and then going out for a second inning of work, mainly firing fastballs in an effort to build up arm strength/stamina again.

"I think every year is just unique," he said. "The recovery and the workouts in between, you have to stay on and make sure. When you're younger, you can skip a day here and there and think you need a breather, but when you get older, I don't think you can take that time. You just need to keep your body moving at all times.

"My arm feels fine, knock on wood. Nothing really came up last year as far as arm issues or anything like that. Just keep going forward. [Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio] has done such a good job with us this spring and hopefully that continues going forward."

Asked whether he would love to duplicate his 2016 season — arguably the best season of his 11-year career — as he works up to his Opening Day start, Lester chuckled and had a simple answer all ready:

"Hell yeah, man."