Cubs

Jon Lester will return from the IL on Thursday and start against the Dodgers

Jon Lester will return from the IL on Thursday and start against the Dodgers

As expected, Jon Lester will return from the injured list and start Thursday's game, the Cubs confirmed Wednesday afternoon. 

Lester will get the ball in the series finale against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lester injured his left hamstring running the bases in the second inning of the Cubs' home opener on April 8. Prior to that, he turned in a quality start in each of his first two outings of the season.

The 35-year-old has been working out at Wrigley Field throughout the homestand, including a 45-pitch simulated game Saturday. 

The Cubs jumbled their rotation over the weekend, starting Tyler Chatwood on Sunday even though Jose Quintana was on regular rest. Chatwood had a fantastic outing Sunday and Quintana followed Tuesday night with one of his best starts in a Cubs uniform. 

Joe Maddon said Chatwood could possibly serve as a piggyback to Lester's start, as the Cubs are expecting about 75 pitches from the veteran southpaw Thursday.

"Realistically, I'd say 75 — almost like what we had set up for Chatwood the other day," Maddon said. "How he gets to that number - is it stressful? Is it not stressful? Does he have to leave the mound a lot on different plays? When he hits a double, how hard does he run to second base? Those kinds of things. We'll just monitor all of that. I'm saying 75-80 sounds like the right kind of number."

Cole Hamels threw Wednesday night and Lester will close out the series against a high-powered Dodgers offense that struggles a bit more against lefties than right-handers. Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish and Quintana will go in the three games in Arizona over the weekend.

What To Know: News and Notes From the Upcoming Reds-Cubs Series

What To Know: News and Notes From the Upcoming Reds-Cubs Series

It’s finally Memorial Day Weekend, which is great time to take a moment and reflect on all those who were, when the Cubs were 2-7, adamant about waiting to pass judgement until the holiday weekend. It’s here, and you were right. Congrats to you. Conventional wisdom rules the day, once again. 

The Cincinnati Reds are in town for the final series in this 7-game homestand. The two teams played in Cincinnati a little over a week ago, and the Reds took two of three despite never winning a game by more than two runs. It’ll be Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and José Quintana on the mound for the Cubs, countered by Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle, and Tanner Roark for Cincinnati. Here’s what else to look out for: 

Schwarber’s Staying Put

It sounds like the Kyle Schwarber Leadoff Experiment isn’t going anywhere. He’s lead off for the Cubs in each of the last nine games (including Friday), and is hitting .267/.368/.567 with a .935 OPS over that span. He’s hit 2 of his 7 homers and drawn 6 of his 26 walks out of the leadoff spot. While it’s not his first rodeo, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon talked pregame about how the team is more convinced that it’s the right fit now. 

“It’s one of those things where you have to believe it to see it,” he said. “And sometimes there’s folks that have to see it to believe it. I just thought it was the right time. Again, I liked it back then -- I did -- however he did not react to it well in that moment. But if you look at his overall abilities  as they stand right now, for me, that’s the perfect spot for him.” 

Cincinnati’s Record: a Reds Herring?

The Reds enter this weekend’s series as the last-place team in the NL Central, and owners of the 5th-worst record (22-27) in the NL. What’s interesting, though, is that they also have the 2nd-best run differential (+25) in the division, which also happens to be the 4th best in the NL. According to Baseball Reference, their actual record is *five* wins lower than it should actually be. 

“We’re playing a team right now that’s record is not good, but they are really good,” Maddon said. “I have a lot of respect for this group.”

The Reds have had some of the best pitching of any team in baseball through the first 40+ games. Going into the long weekend, they rank:

2nd in FIP (3.47)
3rd in ERA (3.50)
5th in K/BB% (17.6)
7th in WHIP (1.23)
4th in HR/FB (12.4% - especially impressive given how homer heavy Great American Ballpark is.) 

Miscellaneous News and Notes

The Cubs called up James Norwood before Friday’s game. He briefly pitched for the Cubs last season, making 11 appearances to the tune of a 4.09 ERA. This season, over 20 innings in Triple-A Iowa, Norwood is holding batters to a .206 average while posting an impressive K/BB of 22.5%. The corresponding move was optioning Rowan Wick back to Triple-A. There’s also been no update on the status of Ben Zobrist, who remains away from the team on a personal absence. 

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Ben Finfer join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs had chances but fall to the Phillies after Jon Lester gets roughed up again. Is anybody worried?

4:00 - It's Kap's daily call for the Cubs management to sign Craig Kimbrel.

8:00 - The White Sox look for a split. Do they need to try to compete in the division or just focus on developing their future stars?

13:00 - The Bears' Top 100 players list is out. The guys debate if Brian Urlacher is too low and if "The Fridge" should have cracked the list.

20:00 - Drake's shoulder rub is dominating the Eastern Conference Finals. The guys weigh in on the touchy subject.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: