Relocated bullpens create different atmosphere for Jon Lester, Cubs

Relocated bullpens create different atmosphere for Jon Lester, Cubs

Monday marked the Cubs' first game without bullpens in the field of play at Wrigley Field, which created a different warm-up environment for starter Jon Lester. 

A near two-hour rain delay and temperatures plummeting into the 30s didn't take away from the energy at Wrigley Field before the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pregame player introductions, the banner-raising ceremony and the team strutting the World Series trophy in from right field produced waves of roaring cheers from the standing-room-only crowd of 41,166.

But Lester was largely separated from the party, taking his pregame warmups into the surprisingly quiet confines of the relocated Cubs bullpen under the left field bleachers. 

"When the doors are closed, it feels like you're in a offseason training facility throwing a bullpen with ESPN on the TV," Lester said. 

So Lester had bullpen coach Lester Strode open the green plexiglass doors separating the bullpen from the left field warning track during his pregame routine Monday to get more of the music and crowd noise. 

"It'll take a little bit of time," Lester said. "We're used to the other way. It'll take a bit of time and it really did help once they opened the doors. You still had the vibe from outside and you could feel that. It's nice warming up in a warmer environment than what it was outside. It'll take a little bit of time, it will. Any time you have change it's going to take a little bit to get used to it." 

Consider it a stark contrast to the last game played here on Clark and Addison before Monday night, when Lester fired six tense innings in a win-or-go-home World Series Game 5 against the Cleveland Indians. Lester threw his warm-up pitches that October night down the left field line, only feet away from an anxiously-energized crowd hoping to see the Cubs send the World Series back to Cleveland. 

The benefit, though, for starting pitchers of having the bullpens removed from the field is lessening whatever distractions may arise while preparing for a game. Monday was a prime example of that. 

"For a night like tonight, it was good," Lester said. "It was good. You had the separation and definitely distanced yourself from the crowd and what was going on. But leading up to that point, it was nice to be on the field and see everything and the team being introduced and all the applause and all that stuff, so it was good. But it was definitely easy to separate yourself when you got into the bullpen and got ready for the game." 

After emerging from under the bleachers, Lester fired six solid innings, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. While he didn't get much of an opportunity to take in the pageantry of Monday's banner-raising ceremony, he'll get the full experience of Wednesday's ring ceremony. 

"It was a special night," Lester said. "Definitely something that'll go down in my book as something that I'll remember for a long, long time. Now, I look forward to Wednesday and getting the fun stuff, getting the rings." 

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.