Move over, Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have a new naked performer. Okay, so it’s not quite the same as quoting Rocky and shadowboxing in the buff, but Jon Lester talked to the media recently about feeling exposed out on the mound this spring.
“You get in the season, you get competitive, and you go back to scouting reports,” the Cubs’ Opening Day starter said. “You have information. I mean, you’re really kinda pitching naked down here. It’s kinda one of those deals. I asked Borzy (Mike Borzello, Cubs secret weapon), I think my first start against Texas, I was like, ‘Gimme something.’
“Because you’re so used to — you come off the World Series where you have all this information — so you’re so used to that as a fallback. Like, if I don’t have this I can go to this (bobbing head from side to side in tennis-spectator fashion), when, in all reality, I’m just trying to get in shape.”
Huh, so the lack of Statcast and other data isn’t just a lament of fans watching games on MLB.tv or following via the Gamecast app? It’s much more than that for the guys playing in the games, though, since they also lack that competitive spark required to bring out their best performance. I mean, let’s be honest, you’re just not going to try as hard if you know your results aren’t being scored.
“Things are so weird down here, it’s just such a weird time for everybody because at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter,” Lester explained. “You want to do well and all that stuff, but you’re really not going out there to win the game. You’re going out there to get your work done and work on what you’re supposed to work on and get the feel for certain pitches and…get out of there and be healthy. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Compounding matters is Lester’s experience, both in terms of longevity and magnitude. I don’t care how many people they pack into Sloan Park, it’s impossible to the atmosphere of Wrigley Field for a Sunday Night Baseball game against the Cardinals. Then you ratchet that up for the playoffs and the World Series and so on.
And when you consider that Lester’s last outing wasn’t even on the biggest stage Arizona has to offer, you begin to understand just what kind of limbo he’s in. Throwing on one of the backfields in an intrasquad game isn’t necessarily the best proving ground, but it’s better to work the kinks out there than under those aforementioned bright lights.
“(I) just threw a lot of fastballs,” Lester admitted. “They knew that and we’re just trying to work on things, I’m just trying to get my fastball back to the right angle and the right location. Missed a lot today, so just continuing to work on it. That’s what these days are for, that’s what you kinda have to look at it as, not read into the results and just try to continue to get back to…get that angle back. That’s been kinda avoiding me these last couple (starts).”
Such struggles could also lead to less applause, which I don’t think is what Jimmy Dugan meant when he advised us to avoid the clap. I don’t think that’ll be a problem for Lester in either sense, though it was good for him to get in the equivalent of five innings or so Thursday as he tries find that arm slot again.
Now if we just just find a way to get these guys some clothes.