Cubs’ Jon Lester annoyed by rough start

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PEORIA, Ariz. — By the time Joe Maddon finished calling James Shields “brave” and “courageous,” saying his work ethic was “spectacular,” it was hard not to wonder what if.

What if Shields — who chose the Padres’ four-year, $75 million deal over the Cubs’ three-year, $60 million backloaded pitch last month — teamed up with Jon Lester, the Cubs’ new ace?

“Messing with him right now would be kinda fun,” the Cubs manager said of Shields before his team lost to the same Padres, 7-0. “But we’re not. So we wish he and his family the best.”

Maddon, who managed Shields with the Rays, painted a picture of a man who, even as a young pitcher, taught his teammates how to work.

“He’s all of that,” he said. “It’s not just talk. He’s all of that.”

The same can be said of Lester, who signed with the Cubs — for six years, $155 million — to be both a workhorse and an example to his young teammates.

“He knows what he wants,” Maddon said. “He knows why he’s here.”

That was clear even — especially? — after his first bad day as a Cub. Lester allowed six runs, all earned, on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. He gave up home runs to the Padres’ Matt Kemp and Tommy Medica.

The former Red Sox ace didn’t give the usual spring training platitudes afterward. He didn’t make excuses, even though he was working with catcher Welington Castillo for only the second time ever.

“I’m the one chucking the ball,” he said. “He’s not.”

Lester didn’t seem to care, either, that Opening Night was still 20 days away.

“It’s spring training,” he said. “I hate saying that.”

The rare acknowledgment he gave to the time of year was when he said he was happy he could work on aspects pinpointed by pitching coach Chris Bosio.

“I don’t want to go out and get my butt kicked,” he said.  “So regardless of what you’re working on, regardless of the time of year, you still want to have good results.”

Lester had thrown five scoreless innings, allowing only four hits and no walks, before Monday, but that was no comfort.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s now or in October — I’m still taking the same mindset,” he said. “I’m still trying to win and succeed and have good results.

“So I don’t need starts like this to fire me up or focus me.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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