Jon Lester’s unwillingness, or inability, to throw to first base caught a majority of the media and fan base by surprise when the issue made headlines on Opening Night. Jon Lester does not like throwing to first base, and guess what he’s had a very good career. But Lester and the Cubs are going to have to find solutions to the problem.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer knew this would eventually become an issue, especially in the National League, and the Cubs started working with Lester on his throws to first base in Spring Training.
During his weekly spot on Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio), Joe Maddon addressed the Jon Lester situation with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden.
“Everybody is seeing it. It’s no big surprise or whatever. I mean last year he didn’t throw the ball over at all. It’s something we’ve been working at. I still believe he’s going to get better with it.”
“And having said all of that, even yesterday [Monday], if you ask David Ross he thought he should have thrown out the baserunner,” Maddon said. “In the first game against St. Louis, the same thing. He’s so quick to the plate I think we can still negate all of that. So we’re going to continue to work on in getting better on throwing the ball to first, but in the meantime as long as he is able to get the ball to our catcher quickly enough, because all of our catchers throw well, I still think we can stop the running game with him out there.”
But the problem now, as Jim Bowden pointed out, is because so much focus has been placed on the issue teams are just going to start running on first move. The Cubs have to figure out ways to slow teams down and keep them from taking extra bases at will. And Maddon has ideas of how to keep teams in check while the coaching staff continues to work with Lester.
“We did a lot of work in Spring Training actually and he was, is really good at it. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to overcome and probably keep doing it until you become more comfortable with it because I’ve seen him do it really well, honestly I have.”
“It’s just one of those things we’ll get beyond with. Like I said I really want to simplify things and not make it complicated because if he’s worried about that I don’t think the quality of the pitch to the plate is going to be as good,” Maddon said. “And then furthermore you’ve got … the biggest thing is to keep the right guys off the base or only let the wrong guys get on base. The guys that even if they know, they still can’t steal.”
“There’s ways to get him to manage it a bit I think. Some things I’ve been thinking about and I’m going to talk to him and Bos [Chris Bosio] about but at this point I’m really not that concerned, honestly.”
Jon Lester hasn’t exactly been Jon Lester over his first two starts of the season. And his struggles on the mound are magnifying the problem he has throwing to first base. Maddon is not concerned about Lester’s performance and has been quick to point out his preparation for the season was cut short in Spring Training. Maddon is expecting Lester to pitch better his next time out, which is Sunday afternoon against Andrew Cashner and the Padres at Wrigley Field, and continue to improve as he settles into the routine of the baseball season.
The Cubs are, without a doubt, not ignoring the situation with Jon Lester like the Red Sox did after Theo Epstein left the organization. Joe Maddon has a knack for thinking outside of the box and finding solutions to problems. And his ideas will be put to the test Sunday as soon as the first batter reaches base.