Jon Lester did not start his career with the Cubs the way he would have liked. A dead, or tired, arm in Spring Training put him behind and kept him from preparing for the season. Lester struggled on Opening Night and lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals while St. Louis exposed in front of a national audience that Lester does not like throwing to first base.
Lester showed steady improvement throughout April as he basically had Spring Training in games that counted. Lester was 0-2 after four starts with a 6.23 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP.
During a start in Cincinnati on April 24, Lester appeared to settle in and over his last three outings he’s looked more like Jon Lester. Lester is not happy. And he said he hasn’t pitched to his own expectations after he recorded his fourth straight quality start on Monday night.
When asked how he thought he’s pitched, Lester replied, “I stink.”
Lester explained during his post-game meeting with the media, “My expectations are more than anyone could put on me. The biggest thing is we won. You look at that, everything is fine. As far as expectations, that’s a whole other day with a whole other sit down and a whole other hour of time that not a lot of us have. I’m a perfectionist. I want to be perfect all the time, obviously that’s not going to happen.”
Jon Lester is 3-0 in his last three starts with a 1.80 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Lester has allowed seven runs, five earned, on 15 hits with seven walks and 16 strikeouts in 20 innings. For the season, Lester is 3-2 with a 4.10 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.41 FIP (22 runs, 19 earned, on 44 hits with 12 walks and 40 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings).
Joe Maddon met with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer on Monday to discuss options for the bullpen.
Maddon told the beat writers, “We’re trying to figure out the guys and what’s best to make them perform more consistently.”
The Cubs are exploring ways to improve the bullpen, and are believed to be looking at internal options.
Before Monday’s game Jed Hoyer said, “At some point, you have to talk about fixes. You can’t have perspective forever. You have to make some decisions. But right now, we’re hopeful we get the bullpen going in the right direction.”
The first step to getting the bullpen pointed in the right direction would be for the starters to pitch deeper in games. Turning a game over to a bullpen in the sixth inning on a regular basis is going to cost a team a lot of games. A minimum of six innings from the starters and pitching into the seventh while recording an out or two will lead to more victories now and later in the season.
The Texas Rangers signed RHP Lendy Castillo to a minor league contract according to Baseball America. Castillo became a free agent last fall and did not re-sign with the Cubs.
The Cubs current front office rolled the dice with Castillo in the Rule 5 Draft in December of 2011 and lost the gamble. Castillo did not develop the way the front office thought he would. Castillo appeared in 13 games for the Cubs during the 2012 season and was 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP.
Castillo spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in the Cubs’ system and did not advance past Double-A Tennessee. Castillo appeared in 36 games last year and posted a 1-1 record with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP.
News, Notes and Rumors
• RHP Neil Ramirez is progressing and “threw first aggressive bullpen session” Monday in Arizona. Ramirez is at least a couple of weeks away according to multiple reports, with early June a more likely timeframe according to the Sun-Times.
• After Monday’s game, Miguel Montero tweeted, “No panic #WeAreGood every team get in slump last week was ours. This is the way you want to start the week so let’s go Cubs.”
• RHP Dallas Beeler completed his fourth rehab start Monday for Triple-A Iowa, and it didn’t go too well. Beeler allowed six runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Beeler is 0-2 with a 10.34 ERA and a 2.17 WHIP (21 hits, 13 walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings)
• According to Ken Davidoff, with Noah Syndergaard making his big league debut on Tuesday night, it will be like a Major League Futures Game at Wrigley Field.
• RHP Jake Stinnett won his first game in pro ball on Monday night. Stinnett gave up four runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings. South Bend topped Lansing 7-4. For the season, Stinnett is 1-2 in six starts with a 6.12 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP (21 runs, 17 earned, on 29 hits with 21 walks and 20 strikeouts in 25 innings).
• RHP Barret Loux is expected to report extended Spring Training on Tuesday according to a report from the Des Moines Register. Loux is on the disabled list with a right triceps strain.
• The Cubs’ shaky defense and struggling bullpen stepped up late in Monday’s game according to a report from ESPN Chicago.
• Improvements in scouting are not doing any favors for the Cubs young hitters according to a report from the Tribune.
• According to ELIAS, the Cubs 16 starts of Rizzo-Russell-Bryant-Castro are the most by four infielders all 25 years or younger since the ’86 Mariners.
• If David Ross had been thrown out of Sunday’s game when he was called for interference, Joe Maddon told Bruce Miles that Jonathan Herrera would have been the Cubs’ catcher.
• And speaking of David Ross, Bill Chuck added him to the list of catchers who are batteries.
• The Reds designated former Cubs’ closer Kevin Gregg for assignment on Monday then released him. Gregg allowed 12 runs on 13 hits with five walks and 14 strikeouts in 11 appearances out of the Reds’ pen (10 2/3 innings).
• According to Todd Zolecki, Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to talk to teams “about a lot of things” and those conversations “haven’t stopped since the off-season.”
• The Cubs and Mets have built organizations in two different ways … one with bats, the other with pitching.
• MLB.com’s latest Power Rankings have the Cubs at No. 12 in the majors, sixth in the National League.
• Baseball is dying according to a report from Hardball Talk.
And last, but not least, RHP Anthony Varvaro is expected to report to Triple-A Iowa after clearing waivers.
This Day In Cubstory
2013 – Anthony Rizzo agreed to terms on a seven-year, $41 million contract extension with the Cubs that included two options that could max out the contract at $68 million over nine seasons.
2012 – Cubs signed free agent Brian Esposito
2004 – Alex Cora fouled off 14 straight pitches from Matt Clement before hitting the 18th pitch of the at bat over the right field wall for a two-run homer and gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.
2003 – Cubs released Will Cunnane
2000 – The Cubs and Brewers played the longest nine-inning game in National League history, 4 hours and 22 minutes, at Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost 14-8 in a game that featured one of the longest homers in Wrigley Field history. Glenallen Hill launched a homer on top of the apartment building on Waveland across the street from Wrigley Field. It was estimated at 490 feet during the game and actually measured at 500 feet.
2000 – Cubs traded Mark Guthrie to the Devil Rays for Dave Martinez
1998 – Mark Grace became the first player to hit a ball into the swimming pool behind the right center field wall in what is now known as Chase Field. Grace did not hit a ball in the pool during his time with the Diamondbacks.
1985 – Cubs purchased Dave Hostetler from the Expos
1984 – Chris Robinson, born
1983 – Blake Lalli, born
1970 – Ernie Banks hit career home run No. 500. Banks lined a home run into the left field bleachers off Braves’ pitcher Pat Jarvis. The milestone homer was also the 1600th RBI of Banks’ career. Umpire Frank Secory, who saw Banks hit the first homer of his career, was at Wrigley for No. 500. Cubs won the game 4-3 in 11 innings on a Ron Santo infield single.
1968 – Mark Clark, born
1959 – Cubs released Bobby Adams
1959 – Cubs traded Taylor Phillips to the Phillies for Seth Moreland
1959 – Earl Averill hit a pinch-hit Grand Slam off Lew Burdette in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 7-3 victory over the Braves at Wrigley Field. Moose Moryn tied the game earlier in the ninth inning with a home run.
1955 – Sam Jones became the first African American pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Major League history. Jones walked the bases loaded in the ninth inning before striking out Dick Groat, Roberto Clemente and Frank Thomas to preserve the no-no in a 4-0 victory over the Pirates. Jones’ no hitter is the first at Wrigley Field in 38 years and only 2,918 fans were on hand to see history.
1938 – Norm Gigon, born
1916 – Hank Borowy, born
1889 – Alex McCarthy, born
1887 – Casey Hageman, born
1868 – Harry Truby, born