SURPRISE, Ariz. — Veteran John Lackey felt strong enough and was efficient enough in his scheduled four innings that he pitched a fifth, giving up a two-out run in the third and another run in the fifth after a leadoff double.

He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

“It was a good test because I’m still early in spring, still trying to establish a fastball,” said Lackey, who said he liked the progress of his command. “They’re obviously a really good fastball-hitting team, so it was a nice test for sure.”


From worst to worser

Three days after an ugly inning against the Athletics, closer Hector Rondon was crushed by the Royals in the eighth.

He gave up five hard hits in his first 11 pitches, including a two-run homer.

Then after a visit to the mound by the pitching coach and back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded, he gave up two more hits for three more runs and was lifted.

His last 1 2/3 innings: 10 hits, 8 earned runs (5 Ks, 1 BB).


Pitchers and foreign objects

Halfway through the exhibition schedule Wednesday, Cubs pitchers began to appear in the batting order, with Lackey getting first hacks (0-for-2 with a strikeout after trying to bunt), and Jason Hammel due up Thursday.

“The pitchers have to start to get used to this, and we have to start getting used to it as a group, also,” manager Joe Maddon said.


Back to 9th for Cubs pitchers

Maddon said he likely will bat the pitcher in the No. 9 spot this year instead of the No. 8 spot he used for the pitcher most of last year.

A big part of the decision, he said, is that he no longer feels the need to protect Addison Russell (who batted ninth as a rookie).

“He’s a different animal this year,” said Maddon, who’s still mulling where Russell will hit (probably seventh or eighth).

Russell batted second Wednesday and was 1-for-2 with a walk.


On deck

Diamondbacks at Cubs, Mesa, Ariz., 6:05 p.m., ESPN, audio, Archie Bradley vs. Hammel. Also: Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill pitch for the Cubs in a “B” game vs. Diamondbacks, Scottsdale, Ariz., 10 a.m.