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Former surly Cubs pitcher John Lackey brings wisdom, smile and ‘one-liners’ to Cubs camp

“I think he’s here for a haircut,” Cubs manager David Ross said of former Red Sox and Cubs teammate John Lackey, who was invited to spend a few days in camp to put on a uniform and bring a veteran influence to young pitchers.

John Lackey during the 2017 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
John Lackey during the 2017 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. — A familiar face at the top of a tall, narrow Cubs uniform wandered through workouts in camp Wednesday, catching the immediate attention of media he seemed content to avoid.

“I think he’s here for a haircut,” David Ross said of former Red Sox and Cubs teammate John Lackey, who was invited by the new manager to spend a few days in camp imparting wisdom and, well, other thoughts to old friends and young pitchers.

“I think he wants to be around the game a little, and as shocking as that may be to you guys [in the media], he’s a guy that really has a lot of knowledge,” Ross said. “I joke with him all the time that he has the alphabet in rings. He has the A [Anaheim in 2002], B [Boston in 2013] and the C [Cubs in 2016].

“This guy has seen it, done it, in the biggest market, and he knows what that looks like. And he’s friends with a lot of these guys and has good energy when he’s in the clubhouse — he’s always been that guy. And he doesn’t have to toe the rubber, so you won’t see that [dyspeptic] side of him at all. . . .

“I jumped at the chance to see if he wanted to come. He got me my two rings; I owe him at least that much.”

Lackey did not meet with the media Wednesday.

“I love when he comes around. It was awesome to see him,” said pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who did not witness a haircut Wednesday. “He’s back for another one, I guess.

“He hit us with some one-liners again like he always does. He’s just the best.”

Quintana back from flu

Fourth starter Jose Quintana, who was knocked off his feet by the same flu bug that sidelined Ross in the last week, returned to work, throwing a bullpen session Wednesday.

He’s scheduled to throw a live batting-practice session Friday and then expects to make his spring debut early next week.

“It was terrible. My body hurt and high fever and all that stuff,” he said. “I feel great right now. I’m excited to be on the mound next week.”

Quintana, who followed a two-month hot streak with a final-month slump last year, said even with the recent bug, he has found one or two extra mph over last year’s 91-mph fastball.

Whatever remains of that extra velocity when the season opens, the left-hander sounds confident about his final contract year with the Cubs — and more than confident his sick leave won’t impact his on-time launch for the season.

“I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’m excited.”