How Cubs' Jon Lester might be impacted by strain of shortened spring training


If baseball can navigate the health precautions, the money and the politics well enough to get their 2020 season started in early July as planned, how prepared are they to navigate the challenges of a rushed “spring” and avoid injuries?

If there’s a bigger challenge in this process than owners and union agreeing on financial terms, it might be that one.

RELATED: MLB and players 2020 season showdown comes from mistrust built in recent years

Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis was among several players to raise the issue during the early weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown. And as the shutdown stretched into his third month this week, it has only become a potentially bigger issue — with many players reducing the intensity of their individual baseball workouts over time.

Cubs rookie Adbert Alzolay built a ramp he uses as a mound to continue to throw “bullpen sessions” he shows off on social media. But veteran Jon Lester told NBC Sports Chicago two weeks ago he was back in “offseason mode.”

As if the three-week spring-like period for teams to get ready under MLB’s plan didn’t already seem rushed enough.

“That’s hard because when you’re younger, it’s easier. Everything is easier,” Lester said Friday during an appearance on the MLB Network — adding that even during a typical spring training “you’re pretty sore” the first three or four days of throwing “no matter what you do in the offseason.”

He told host Mark DeRosa, the former Cub, that to be ready for a five-inning, regular-season start, he might have to be ramped up enough to throw live batting practice before he gets to any restarted spring camp — a level that usually is reached sometime during the second week of spring.

“If we’re doing a three-week thing, you would have to be ready to throw to hitters and then maybe do that three to four times and then jump into a game,” Lester, 36, said. “So you’re looking at three or four starts [after that before] I think you’d be kind of primed and ready.

“That’s just me personally,” he added. “I know other guys are probably still throwing to hitters or doing their thing. I physically can’t do that right now. So I feel it would take me just a tick longer, maybe one more start than let’s say a [Tyler] Chatwood or a [Jose] Quintana.”

At least he wouldn’t have to worry about the rigors of batting practice, with a universal designated hitter part of the plan for the adjusted season.

MORE: Why Kyle Schwarber is not the automatic choice for Cubs DH in 2020

But it does put a premium on pitching for the additional roster spots being allotted to each team, and the taxi squads of upper-level prospects and depth players staying in shape in the wings.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.
Contact Us