Your move, Jon Lester.
Now that “The Yips” became a viral video, the Cubs can’t simply wave this off as a media creation or pretend like it never happened. Lester airmailing that throw to first base will have to be ingrained into any scouting report on the $155 million lefty.
“Any moment can become a negative situation if you permit it to,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. “I know from the outside looking in, I get it. Listen, I’m not going to deny it. I understand what everybody’s talking about, of course. But now it’s up to us to make the adjustment and make it work.”
That’s why team president Theo Epstein believes this will become a nonissue. Lester – a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox – isn’t soft or defensive or unproven.
“He’s very much a grown man,” Epstein said. “He faces things head-on. He’s going to work. He’s got some things to work on.”
Lester admitted as much after Monday night’s 7-6 comeback victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field, joking it had been awhile since he had thrown over to first base (April 2013).
Moments later, Lester thought he saw Zack Cozart leaning one way and got a little overexcited, throwing a ball that wound up bouncing into the visiting bullpen, where Jorge Soler had hustled over from right field. Soler picked it up and made a strong throw to third base to nail Cozart.
Here’s how Bryan Price – the Reds manager who had been a well-respected pitching coach – broke it down:
“More than anything, I think we needed to see a throw over,” Price said. “You almost have to create an environment where he’s going to throw over. The thing that he’s done that really helps him is they have catchers that can throw. We all know that David Ross can throw and (Welington) Castillo really improved last year. I know Montero from my days in Arizona and he’s a good catch-and-throw guy.
“(Lester’s) been really competitive with his times to the plate. So now you go: ‘OK, well, he may not throw over to first base at all or very little. But when he goes to the plate and it’s a 1.15 or 1.17 (seconds), you better get a great jump because those guys will throw you out if you don’t.
“There may be a certain sense of not as much anxiety for the baserunners because he doesn’t throw over, (but) I don’t think like the league’s going to steal 100 bases against him. I don’t think that’s going to happen because he’s too quick to the plate.”
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Lester didn’t throw over to first base last year with the Red Sox or Oakland A’s and still had the best individual season of his career, earning his third All-Star selection and finishing at 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA across 219-plus innings.
“He didn’t do it once last year and that wasn’t exactly a secret and there was not an inordinate amount of steals,” Epstein said. “Would throwing to first base help control the running game? Of course. Is he going to face things head-on and find a way to control the running game? No doubt about it.
“He’s also got to do it in a manner that allows him to make good pitches to home plate while there’s a runner on first. That’s really important.
“He naturally does a good job of varying his looks and his times and is quick to home plate when he wants to be. Always, the best way is to get the hitter out. But he’s working on it.”