MESA, Ariz. — Cubs elder statesman Jon Lester doesn’t know about all that stuff manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday about him “spreading his wings” as a team leader at this point in his career.
“I’m just being myself,” Lester said. “I’m not a vocal person. I like playing baseball. I just try to go out there and do my job. If that’s considered being a leader, great.”
But Lester did take note of the front-office message delivered individually in October and publicly all winter — the team has been missing a David Ross-type leader in the clubhouse since the 2016 World Series, and it has been missing urgency.
“I think they made it clear to everybody. I read the stuff, too,” Lester said after his first bullpen session Wednesday as pitchers and catchers held their first official workout.
“I think they hit the nail on the head,” he said. “[But] I think we have a lot of respect for guys in our clubhouse, and I think we cleared the air on a lot of things this offseason with certain things as far as the front office to players, kind of understanding our roles a little bit more. Sometimes you need to sit down and actually go face-to-face and talk about what the expectations are.
“And I think we’re in a good place. I think everybody’s comfortable with who they are and what is expected of them. Now we can get back to work.”
Coming off a quick, bitter ending to the postseason and with little money in the budget to make big changes, the front office signed reputed clubhouse presence (and infielder) Daniel Descalso and looked into Ross and former Cub Mark DeRosa for their vacant bench coach job, eventually hiring well-respected Mark Loretta from the Padres’ front office.
Whether they — or Lester — fill the perceived void in 2019, team president Theo Epstein nonetheless calls this a year of “reckoning” for a team with a lame-duck manager and little more than internal improvements to help their chances for another World Series.
“I probably wouldn’t show up if we didn’t have a chance to win the World Series,” said Lester, who sees — “100 percent” — at least one more title in this team, as is. “It’s the same group that won in ’16, and I think we’ve added some really good pieces that we need, and our younger guys have gotten better.
“You lose a Kris Bryant for the majority of the season, that’s going to take a toll on our team, and it did. You lose a [Yu] Darvish for as much as we did [to an elbow injury], and it’s going to take a toll on our team. We won 95 games without those two guys. We won without a closer [Brandon Morrow] for a while. So if we can get these guys back to being healthy and have a good run, I think we’re right there.”