Cubs

Jon Lester sends positive message to John Farrell after lymphoma diagnosis

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Jon Lester sends positive message to John Farrell after lymphoma diagnosis

All things considered, Jon Lester came away from a conversation with John Farrell feeling optimistic about the Boston Red Sox manager’s Stage 1 lymphoma diagnosis.

On Friday at Fenway Park, Farrell revealed that he will be taking a medical leave of absence and begin chemotherapy, responding to a “highly curable” condition detected this week during hernia surgery. 

Farrell had been a huge influence on Lester, helping the lefty develop into one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, someone the Cubs felt comfortable giving a six-year, $155 million megadeal last winter.

[MORE: Chase Utley? GM Jed Hoyer says Cubs aren’t close to any deals (yet)]

Lester beat cancer and earned two World Series rings with the Red Sox while Farrell worked as the pitching coach (2007) and manager (2013).

“I don’t really think you give John too much advice,” Lester said after Friday’s 6-5 win over the White Sox, surrounded by reporters inside U.S. Cellular Field’s visiting clubhouse. “He’s pretty strong-willed. I would imagine he’ll be fine. I’m sure it’s a little bit of a blow for his family. But I’m sure he’ll be fine through this whole process.”

One of Farrell’s three sons – Shane – works for the Cubs in the team’s amateur scouting department. Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo – a managerial candidate the Cubs had on their radar after the 2013 season – will manage the Red Sox for the rest of the season.  

Lester received treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital while dealing with his own cancer scare, which cut short his 2006 season after an anaplastic large-cell lymphoma diagnosis that August. By October 2007, Lester beat the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in the game that clinched a World Series title.

“He seems pretty positive,” Lester said. “It’s obviously one of the better places – if not the best place – in the country to be if you do have cancer. He’s in good hands. I know those doctors pretty well.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the stretch run, Cubs fans]

That experience helped shape the “Never Quit” message Lester keeps sending through the charitable foundation he’s aligned with now. Lester met with Anthony Rizzo when the future All-Star first baseman got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a Red Sox prospect in 2008.

“I don’t think you can ever really prepare for a situation like that,” Lester said. “It’s just one of those things you have to ride out. You have to do what the doctors tell you to do.

“You just have to kind of grind through it.”

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.