Cubs

Cubs thrilled for Lester after lefty reaches 200 career wins

Cubs

With the Cubs off Monday night, manager David Ross found himself cheering on perhaps the unlikeliest of teams.

“I rooted for the red team yesterday, and that felt really strange,” Ross said of the Cardinals.

As strange as it may have felt, it was for a good reason. Former Cubs ace Jon Lester was going for — and secured — his 200th career victory.

“But I'm really happy for Jon,” Ross said. “That was special.”

Ross and Lester are good friends off the field with a relationship dating back over a decade on the diamond. They were teammates in Boston and on the North Side (2015-16). 

Ross is Lester’s career leader in innings caught (578 2/3) and was his manager in 2020, Lester's sixth and final season with the Cubs.

The lefty signed with the Nationals in January and was traded to the Cardinals in July, but the Cubs kept up with his outings this season as he neared the milestone.

“A lot of the coaches and the group that has known him and has been around here, everybody's been following his progression to 200 and definitely hoping he got it before he got here," Ross said.

St. Louis comes to Wrigley Field on Friday for four games, and Lester is slated to pitch.

The Cubs had conflicting feelings knowing he could have picked up win No. 200 against them, pitching for a rival on top of it.

 

“All the losses stink on my end, but that probably would have stunk a little bit worse if he would have got it here," Ross said.

Said pitching coach Tommy Hottovy: “Obviously, it's something we've talked about over the years, just watching him, hoping he got to that number. Selfishly, we didn't want it to happen against us, either."

Lester didn’t get a sendoff from Cubs fans last season due to COVID-19 crowd restrictions. He returned to Wrigley with the Nationals in May, but the Cubs were not hosting fans at 100-percent capacity yet.

He'll likely return to another warm reception this weekend, certainly after adding the milestone to his decorated career. He won 77 of those games with the Cubs (and nine more in the playoffs).

"He's had an amazing career. He really has," Hottovy said. "Two-hundred wins is just part of it. The postseason career, the record, everything he's done, the 30-plus starts in how many years?

"He’s done a lot of really good things, and so I was happy for him. Good to see him get that 200th win."

But once the game starts, it's back to business.

“Now we can really go all in on kicking his butt,” Ross joked. “I'm happy for him, very happy.”

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