MESA, Ariz. – Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday he wasn’t aware of the bone chip in Jon Lester’s pitching elbow that has likely been there for much of the left-hander’s career.
And he doesn’t care.
Even though the nature of that condition suggests the chip may suddenly dislodge and create an injury that requires surgery?
“And you never know when a young pitcher’s going to have Tommy John surgery,” Maddon said. “I don’t concern myself with stuff like that. Nothing I can do about it. You go play, and if there’s an issue with it, you attack the issue and you move on forward from there. Right now I think he looks great.”
The existence of the bone chip was first reported in a soon-to-be-released book, The Arm, by Yahoo Sports baseball columnist Jeff Passan, who refers to it as a “little grenade float[ing] near his ligament.”
Two days after Lester talked with the Sun-Times about the bone chip, Lester addressed it again with media after his spring training start Sunday.
“Regardless of what an MRI shows or anything like that, you can throw a pitch and blow out,” he said. “It’s the risk of the game.
“I think if it was a serious issue, the contract that I signed probably wouldn’t be what it was,” he added, referring to the six-year, $155 million deal the Cubs gave him, with full knowledge of the chip.
Lester has not gone on the disabled list for anything related to his elbow and has made at least 31 starts in eight consecutive seasons (with more than 200 innings in seven of those).
Team president Theo Epstein downplayed the potential issue Friday. In the book, he is quoted saying: “The chip doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not going to be debilitating. It can only [screw] you for part of the season with bad timing.”
Which, obviously, would be the reason for concern in a season as anticipated and significant for the Cubs as this one is.
“There’s stuff that every other pitcher in this game has to manage,” Lester said. “And we all know that there’s partial tears and ligament weaknesses and bone chips and any other thing you can imagine that’s probably wrong with us. But it’s all about what you can do effectively on that mound.”