Cubs

Make your own luck: Jon Lester dominant in first Cubs victory

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Make your own luck: Jon Lester dominant in first Cubs victory

This is what the Cubs are paying Jon Lester for.

After four rocky starts to begin the 2015 season, the $155 million pitcher flashed his dominance Friday, hurling seven shutout innings to pick up his first Chicago win as the Cubs beat the Brewers, 1-0, in front of 31,128 fans at Wrigley Field.

"This is a big day for me personally," Lester said. "It always goes back to your first start in spring training, your first start of the season, when you get that first 'W.' Obviously, we would have liked to have had that happen a while ago, but that's not the case."

Lester needed only 90 pitches to get through his seven innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out four. He set down 15 of the last 16 batters he faced, lowering his ERA from 6.23 to 4.71 in the process.

"It just keeps getting better," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's going to keep getting better, too."

[MORE - MLB Commissioner, Cubs like seeing Wrigley Field's progress]

This was more like the Jon Lester with a 3.62 ERA and 116 victories over his nine-year career.

"A little crisper, ball was coming out really good," catcher David Ross said. "He had a good fastball, some late velocity behind it. Stuff was a lot sharper. I thought he was WAY back to being the Jon that I know and the guy that I'm used to. It's good for the Cubs."

Ross - who became Lester's personal catcher when the two were in Boston - said he believes this is the Jon Lester Cubs fans are going to get most of the time when he's on the mound.

Ross also felt Lester may have been pressing a bit with the pressure that came with the enormous contract.

"I envy his bank account, not the expectations that come along with that," Ross deadpanned. "It's human nature and you want to go out there and prove every last penny of that. But that's impossible, so I think as a catcher, I'm excited about what I saw today."

Lester endured a dead arm period in spring training that threw him off a bit and admits he was not executing to the degree he's become accustomed to in his first four starts with the Cubs.

At the same time, Lester was a bit unlucky, with a .424 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against him in those four starts, which was well above league average. Lester's FIP (fielding independent pitching) was also 2.27 - a far cry from his 6.23 ERA - which is another indicator that he was getting unlucky.

Only, Lester doesn't look at it like he was "due."

"I think luck is what you make of it," he said. "It comes down to pitching better, executing better and you make your own luck at the end of the day."

Even with the victory, Lester's mindset hasn't changed. It's still all about "the next one" and not getting complacent.

"Today's a big day," he said. "We'll celebrate this and have some fun with it, but tomorrow, it's back to work and look forward to the next one."

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Jon Lester jersey right here]

Addison Russell supplied the only offense the Cubs needed, depositing his first big league homer into the new left-field bleachers in the third inning.

The Cubs collected eight hits but ran into three outs on the basepaths, including two at third base when Cubs runners tried to stretch from first to third on base hits. Maddon said after the game he had no issues with the Cubs' aggressiveness on the basepaths.

Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon preserved the win for Lester by combining for four strikeouts over the final two innings.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Will Jose Quintana be wearing a different uniform in 2020?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Will Jose Quintana be wearing a different uniform in 2020?

David Kaplan and Tony Andracki are in San Diego for Day 2 of the Winter Meetings.

Theo Epstein met the media for the first time Monday night. Kap and Tony react to his comments on how free agency affects his team's ability to make a trade (1:00). Plus, Theo discusses all the talk about his payroll limitations and how Yu Darvish's performance at the end of 2019 helps that (6:00).

Will Jose Quintana be wearing a different uniform in 2020? The guys discuss that (10:00).

Joe Girardi joins Kap to discuss the state of the Phillies, former Cub Jake Arrieta and the state of catching with robot umps a possibility in the future (13:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Ken Rosenthal: Giants viewed as top-bidder for Nicholas Castellanos

Ken Rosenthal: Giants viewed as top-bidder for Nicholas Castellanos

As the budget-conscious Cubs figure out their 2020 payroll, an NL West team has emerged in the race to sign free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subcription required), a team interested in Castellanos views the Giants as the top-bidder for the outfielder's services.

The Giants recently named Cubs front office assistant Scott Harris as their general manager, so San Francisco has some ties to Castellanos. The Giants 2020 luxury tax payroll is currently projected to be $186 million (per Roster Resource) so they could sign Castellanos without going over MLB's $208 million threshold.

Castellanos was a stellar addition last season after the Cubs acquired him at the trade deadline. He posted a .321/.356/.646 line with 16 home runs and 21 doubles in 51 games. That performance upped the 27-year-old's value entering free agency.

The Cubs are looking to get under the luxury tax threshold to avoid being penalized a second straight season. Signing Castellanos would complicate this, but the Cubs are still pursuing him, as they could potentially sign him and clear payroll in a corresponding move.

But if it turns into a bidding war, the Cubs may find themselves unable to bring Castellanos back.