Cubs name Jon Lester the Opening Day starter

Cubs name Jon Lester the Opening Day starter

It's official. Jon Lester will be the Cubs' Opening Day starter.

Joe Maddon made the announcement to reporters ahead of Tuesday's spring training game against the White Sox. Lester will take the ball against the Miami Marlins for the Cubs' regular-season opener March 29 in South Florida.

This will mark the third time in Lester's four seasons with the Cubs that he'll get the Opening Day nod. The Cubs lost both of his previous season-opening outings in 2015 and 2017. Jake Arrieta was the Opening Day starter in 2016 after winning the National League Cy Young Award the season prior.

Lester talked extensively about the starting staff and the team as a whole getting off to a good start this season after the World Series hangover that affected the Cubs last season. Lester will be the first guy to try and get things going.

But don't try to call Lester the Cubs' "ace." That's not a term he thinks is necessary on this stacked rotation featuring Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

"Just a title you guys give us," He said earlier in spring training. "I think we’re a unit, we’re a group. Once the season starts, you get on a five-day rotation, there’s no more No. 1 or No. 2 or whatever. I think you’re seeing now in the playoffs that that Game 1 is more of a matchup, or it could be just who’s pitching the best at that time.

"It’s a cool title to have, but at the end of the day when we walk in that clubhouse, nobody’s an ace. I look at it as we’re a group of five guys that are trying to accomplish something."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer 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.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of


Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: