Cubs

Jon Lester has no intention of pitching 'timid' for Cubs

Jon Lester has no intention of pitching 'timid' for Cubs

Since spring training, the Cubs have fallen in step with Joe Maddon's "embrace the target" motto, running toward expecations and pressure instead of avoiding it.

So why would they approach anything tentatively now?

Maddon tabbed Jon Lester as the Cubs' Game 1 starter, in part because the veteran southpaw has plenty of postseason experience (16 games, 14 starts, 98 innings), but also because Lester embodies the mindset the Cubs are aiming for.

"We all know what time of year this is and what we're playing for," Lester said. "So the preparation and the mindset remains the same, but when you're out there, you know what you're playing for. You know this could be my last start of the year.

"So, I think we all know that and I think the biggest thing is just being able to harness that, not run from that. I think where a lot of people get themselves in trouble - and I don't like to use the word scared, but that's kind of it - you pitch timid as opposed to just going out and attacking hitters.

"The fastball down and away in May works just the same as it does in October. But if you throw that fastball down and away timid, it's not going to work too well."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon and the Cubs are handing Lester the ball with the intention of setting the tone in the short five-game series.

Lester - who owns a 2.85 postseason ERA - will go right after Giants hitters, sticking to his strengths and setting an example of aggressiveness for youngster Kyle Hendricks in Game 2.

The Cubs signed Lester before last season to come in and help change the culture in the clubhouse and he's done exactly that.

He and David Ross have echoed Maddons' thoughts about taking things one day at a time and not getting too caught up on the future.

"You go out there with a different mindset, you're gonna be in trouble," Ross said. "You try to keep the same mindset. It's a different intensity, obviously. The postseason is just a label that's thrown on it. It's baseball. We gotta go out there and compete and play against these guys to do the best of our ability."

Last winter, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist were brought in to supplement those same thoughts, helping the young Cubs core keep things in perspective with an eye on the "Big Boy Games" that kick off Friday evening at what figures to be a rocking Wrigley Field.

"You have to take that same mindset, the same preparation," Lester said. "Before I run to my routine, I run to that. That's kind of my fallback. I know that's kind of the consistent thing in my life as far as the baseball life.

"So I know what to do and I know if I'm prepared and I'm ready to go come 8 o'clock [Friday], let's get it on and see what happens."

Dunder Mifflin Chicago? Derek Holland to rock sweet 'The Office' cleats for MLB Players' Weekend

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USA TODAY

Dunder Mifflin Chicago? Derek Holland to rock sweet 'The Office' cleats for MLB Players' Weekend

Bears. Beets. Beautiful baseball cleats. 

Friday kicks off MLB's third annual Players' Weekend, a set of three days where players can rock customized bats, cleats and gloves that pay homage to their style, interests, etc. In a league full of awesome designs, however, Cubs reliever Derek Holland's cleats inspired by "The Office" might take the cake as the best of the best.

As Andy Bernard would say: nailed it.

Holland also will don cleats inspired by "The Dark Knight." Considering how the movie was filmed largely in Chicago, this design could go as one of the most underrated this weekend.

With how many unique designs come out of Players' Weekend, it's a shame that MLB players can't wear their custom gear all season long. There's always room for more Michael Scott in all of our lives, right?

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Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: The state of the Sox and Darvish duels Kap

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: The state of the Sox and Darvish duels Kap

Leila Rahimi, Scott Podsednik, and Doug Glanville cover everything Chicago baseball in a jam-packed show. First, Jason Benetti joins the show to reminisce about his broadcast with Bill Walton, Lucas Giolito's dominance and Eloy Jimenez's hip issue. Then, the trio discusses Yoan Moncada's return, the Cubs building momentum after a sweep of the Giants, Yu Darvish's back-and-forth with David Kaplan, and where the White Sox rebuild stands entering the final 6 weeks of 2019.

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