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Jon Lester pitches into seventh in spring win, looks ready for opener

Lester earlier this spring.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — In his second-to-last start of the spring, opening-day starter Jon Lester – working with a 100-pitch limit – pitched the longest outing of the spring for a Cubs starter in a 5-4 victory over the Reds on Monday night at Goodyear Ballpark.

He retired the first two batters of the seventh before running out of pitches, left with a 5-3 lead and earned the win.

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Lester (3-1, 2.81 ERA this spring) struck out six in the game and retired nine of the first 12 before three consecutive one-out hits in the fourth produced two runs.

“I feel good physically,” he said.

He has one tapered start Saturday before the March 29 opener.

Ian on the spot

Ian Happ continued to impress in the leadoff spot, leading off the game with a single (and scoring the game’s first run), then drawing a walk in the second. Monday night’s center fielder also made a pair of long-running catches, both near the wall in right-center, one to end the bottom of the third, the other for the second out of the fifth.

In 14 games this spring, all batting leadoff, Happ s 13-for-38 (.342) with five walks (.419 on-base percentage) and nine extra-base hits (.868 slugging) after the walk.

With Morrow than a week to spare

Closer Brandon Morrow pitched an inning in a minor-league game Monday, his fifth appearance of the spring, and appears ready for the start of the season next week.

“He looks fine to me – looks great, actually,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not worried about the results. Physically, health-wise, it’s there. The pitches are there. The velocity’s there, the break is there. Everything’s there. He just has to get out there and compete in a big-league game.”

Morrow is expected to pitch twice more before the opener.

Who’s on first?

Ben Zobrist.

Eventually. Maddon said Monday he still plans to get the versatile veteran some time there before the end of camp to be ready for Anthony Rizzo backup duty.

Strep club

Kyle Hendricks is supposed to start a minor-league game on Tuesday’s off day to get his scheduled work in. But a case of strep throat has cast that in doubt.

Either way, his status for his March 30 season debut was not expected to be impacted.

On deck: Cubs are off Tuesday.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.