Cubs coach Brian Butterfield says Jon Lester will ‘conquer a lot of’ yips issue

MESA, Ariz. – Laugh, cry or scratch your head in confusion.

But get ready for a chance to see Cub pitcher Jon Lester’s “Jordan to Pippen bounce pass” to first every fifth day of the season.

Sunday’s two-hop throwing error notwithstanding, Lester plans to continue work with infield coach Brian Butterfield this spring on perfecting the alternative method of getting the ball to first as a way to combat his yips issue throwing to bases.

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He tried it on his own at times last year, but has formalized some of the technique under Butterfield’s tutelage this spring – reuniting with the coach he had his last year and a half in Boston.

Butterfield said he worked with Lester on the throws while in Boston but only “tinkered” with the bounce pass method. Now they work on angles and sightlines from both sides of the mound and throwing to first and second.

“He’s fine with everything that’s going on,” said Butterfield, who said Lester was actually upbeat after his outing Sunday. “Whether it’s throwing the ball in the air, whether it’s skipping it, I think he’s feeling good about where he is right now going into the season. And there’s still quite a ways to go [this spring].”

Lester, in fact, all but dared opposing hitters to try to bunt at him this season.

“I almost welcome people to try to do that,” Lester said. “You have guys that are in the 3, 4, 5, 6 holes – I’d rather you bunt. Go ahead. Those are the guys that drive in runs so I’d rather that those guys just try to get bunt singles. You saw it with the Dodgers two years ago; it definitely took them out of their game.”

Dodger base runners Enrique Hernandez, Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick took enormous leads when Lester pitched in the 2016 NLCS, especially in Game 5, when many of them also showed bunt early in their at-bats. Lester pitched seven innings, left the game with a 3-1 lead earned the victory and was co-MVP of the NLCS.

“He’s tough mentally,” Butterfield said. “And whatever we do I think that at some point he’s going to be able to conquer a lot of it.”

So was the “Jordan to Pippen” line Butterfield’s?

“No. I probably would have used McHale to Bird,” he said.

Monday’s lineup vs. Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson

(At Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, Ariz.):

  • CF Ian Happ
  • 3B Kris Bryant
  • 1B Anthony Rizzo
  • DH Addison Russell
  • LF Kyle Schwarber
  • C Victor Caratini
  • 2B Tommy La Stella
  • RF Mark Zagunis
  • SS Mike Freeman
  • (RHP Kyle Hendricks)

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