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."