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Cubs’ Jon Lester on MLB efforts to speed up pace of play: ‘Terrible’

Lester

MESA, Ariz. — Count at least one Cubs pitcher among the high-profile players who don’t like baseball’s latest efforts to speed up the pace of play.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Jon Lester said. “It’s all terrible.”

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On Monday, MLB announced rules and policy changes that include speeding up pitching changes and, most conspicuously, limiting mound visits without a pitching change to six per nine innings. That includes visits from teammates on the field, including the catcher.

There is no penalty at this point for a seventh visit; the umpire is simply charged with disallowing it.

“I get the mound-visit thing,” said Lester, whose catcher, Willson Contreras, might make more trips to the mound than any other catcher in the league. “But also, what people [who] aren’t in the game don’t understand is there’s so much technology now, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know the signs before you even get there.

“Now we’ve got Apple watches. Now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel [trying to steal signs]. There’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or ‘How you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take that away, it takes away from the beauty of the baseball game.”

Veteran backup catcher Chris Gimenez isn’t a big fan of restricted mound visits, either.

“[But] six is at least doable,” he said. “If it was two or three, that’s an issue. . . . I just think the mound visits aren’t what’s slowing the game down. There’s some fundamental things that you need to leave alone, and I think that’s one of those things.”

Manager Joe Maddon doesn’t tend to be a big fan of speed-up-the-pace gimmicks. He said he wants to see how it plays out before making a judgment on the latest round of changes.

“I honestly don’t think it will [impact the Cubs],” he said. “We’ll have to figure out a more non-verbal form of communication. We’re not going to be texting, I promise you that.”

The Cubs already have a process for switching signs and communicating without a mound visit and might just need to use that more often.

“I think it’s going to be a new normal. You learn how to do it, and you do it,” Maddon said. “I think there’s going to be a lot said about it, there’s going to be a lot of consternation . . . but I think we’ll figure it out and we’ll play it well and properly.”

World Series or bust?

After his annual address of the team on the first day of full-squad workouts Monday, chairman Tom Ricketts called the rotation the best since his family bought the team in 2009 and said the “vibe” in the meeting reminded him of 2016.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability,” Ricketts said. “I won’t say the season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series. But it is our goal.”

As for fans who might have viewed last year’s NLCS elimination as a failure, Ricketts noted the Cubs have won more regular-season and postseason games than any other team the last three years. Then he added:

“I don’t blame them We should have high expectations. We have a great team.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com