MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester, the $155 million left-hander the Cubs have built their competitive pitching hopes around, dismissed concerns that the “dead arm” condition that scratched him from Saturday’s start is anything more than a routine, “normal” part of spring training.
“It’s nothing to be alarmed about,” Lester said. “There’s no pain; there’s no worry; there’s no anything on anybody’s part. We all know how to go about this. I don’t think there’s any worry on any end from the training staff to the coaching staff to my side of it.”
At least twice the size of the usual media contingent descended on Cubs camp Saturday for what might be nothing more than a minor, short-term issue, underscoring the magnitude of one of baseball’s biggest free agents of the winter and his place in the Cubs’ competitive plans.
“I totally get all of that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s why wer’e just trying to make our best guess right now to keep it at a minimum, keep him ready for Opening Day. But, of course, you can’t deny that there’s going to be a lot of consternation, concern, whatever you want to call it.”
Lester, 31, plans to resume a regular between-starts throwing regimen to make a fourth Cactus League start Thursday and said he has no concerns the missed start will prevent him from making his Opening Night start as scheduled April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“There’s no point in trying to grind through it right now,” he said. “These games don’t mean anything. If it was April 15, it wouldn’t be an issue.
“I’ve dealt with it during the season, and you just keep pitching. But now we have the time and the opportunity to kind of sit back and just rest and make sure it’s right for the season. That’s the main focus right now, getting it right for that.”
Lester said he annually deals with the issue that is common among pitchers but has never missed a spring start because of it. When it has happened during spring training, he said, it usually has happened earlier in camp, he said, and he adjusts his bullpen and batting practice throwing.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “It’s just part of throwing, getting back used to doing this every five days. … It doesn’t really feel like anything. Just kind of a more total body deadness, and then obviously everybody puts a label on it as far as dead arm.”
Despite getting roughed up by the Padres on Monday, he said the arm was fine during that start.
Lester has remained remarkably durable during his career, making no fewer than 31 starts in any of the last seven seasons.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Luck? we all have things that we deal with during the season that come up and I’ve been fortunate enough to kind of minimize those things to where I’m still able to pitch.
“I don’t know. I just try to pitch as many starts as I can. That’s all I try to worry about.”