MESA, Ariz. – Cubs manager Joe Maddon acknowledged Friday that pitcher Jon Lester might never completely solve his problems throwing to bases, given the fact the 32-year-old left-hander traces the issue to his high school days.
But Maddon said he feels confident that continued work will “ameliorate” the problem moving forward – with or without personal catcher David Ross, who retires at the end of this season.
“True, it may not [get fully corrected],” Maddon said. “But I think we did a great job with it last year.
“I love the fact that he’s saying that `I’ve had this problem for a while.’ If in fact it’s going to get better, that’s a wonderful first step as opposed to wanting to conceal it all the time.”
Maddon, who raved about the improved delivery and sharpness of some of Lester’s pitches during a high-traffic outing Thursday, said even though other teams are well aware of the yips thing, exploiting it isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
“We tried to do things to mess him up, and we couldn’t get guys on base,” Maddon says, referring to managing the Rays when Lester pitched for the Red Sox. “And you can say, `Well you can bunt.’ In theory that’s nice, but not everybody can bunt or wants to bunt.”
Lester did a few things later last season that improved the issue, including timing changes and even a few throws to first. Both he and Maddon found optimism in those improvements.
“We’re going to continue to work on that, but I want the emphasis to be on his delivery and his stuff, and making pitches,” Maddon said. “I think if we do that we’ll be able to work through the other thing.”