Why Jon Lester says openers suck but changing catchers won’t

SHARE Why Jon Lester says openers suck but changing catchers won’t
SHARE Why Jon Lester says openers suck but changing catchers won’t

SURPRISE, Ariz. — No, that’s not a typo on Jon Lester’s bio sheet.

He and his wife named their newborn daughter Cy in November. Well, technically Cy Elizabeth.

But, yeah, Cy. Like that Cy.

“That’s more of a coincidence than anything,” the Cubs’ star left-hander said. “It’s not after Cy Young. It’s just a name we really liked.”

Lester couldn’t explain the origin of the affinity he and his wife developed for the name.

But if you’ve watched him pitch the last several years — especially last season for the Cubs — it’s not hard to imagine how familiar and appealing the word might be considering how often it has been mentioned near his own name.

The man the Cubs signed for $155 million at the competitive turning point of their rebuild came closer to a Cy Young Award last year than ever, finishing second to the Nationals’ Max Scherzer after going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. He finished fourth in the American League twice with the Red Sox.

He began the next chapter of his career Sunday, when he made his spring debut with two innings against the Texas Rangers.

“I would love to have about 15 of those [seasons like last year],” he said. “But if I take the ball every five days and get 200-something innings, I feel I’m in a good position to have a good year, a decent year, whatever my numbers have said over the last 10, 11 years.”

Lester’s first game of the spring came exactly four weeks before he’ll make his sixth Opening Day start, second as a Cub.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to be named that guy, especially on this staff in this organization,” said Lester, who reiterated that pitching in an opener “sucks” because starters go in cold with no trends, rhythms or recent scouting.

He’s 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in five openers, and his teams are 1-4 in those games.

“It’s just a weird game,” said Lester, who said Game 1 playoff starts are easier because of all the known quantities that have built up. “That first one is just always a little bit different. But at the same time, it’s fun. It’s a lot of different emotions going into it.”

The bigger potential issue is he’ll open without the safety blanket of his personal catcher the last four seasons, David Ross of “Dancing With the Stars” fame.

Ross became an expert at keeping runners and bunters in check for Lester, who has had problems throwing to bases, dating to his amateur days.

Against the Rangers, he and young catcher Willson Contreras worked together for nine batters — half their total together all last season, when Contreras was a rookie.

But Lester said he already feels a comfort level with Contreras, and he thinks Contreras’ exceptional arm will make up for any catching up he has to do on what had been a Ross-Lester-Anthony Rizzo triangle of tricks for handling the running game.

“I forgot how good of an arm he has until that first throw down to second base [after first-inning warmups],” Lester said. “I’ve got to remember to get the hell out of the way.

“We’ll figure it out,” he added of the building relationship with the catcher who is expected to be the starter for the final four years of Lester’s contract. “It’s just a matter of throwing innings and pitches and all that stuff. I’m not concerned with it at all.

“Willie’s such a good kid and cares, and he wants to learn and get better. I don’t see any reason why this is ever going to be an -issue for anybody.”

If he’s right and the 33-year-old left arm holds up to recent form, he might even have a shot at adding another Cy to the family.

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