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."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Giving Thanks to the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Giving Thanks to the Cubs

In this Thanksgiving-themed episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Tony Andracki discuss what they're most thankful for relating to the Cubs (1:00), with responses ranging from the upgrades at Wrigley Field to the hiring of Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.

Then, in a nod to Black Friday, our panel debates the best deals the Cubs have ever made (7:10), including trades for Sammy Sosa, Ryne Sandberg, Jake Arrieta and more. Plus, Kap tells us how Harry Caray came to be the Cubs announcer after many years with the White Sox (15:00).

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: