How Lester influenced Steele's career-long outing from afar


Even in his retirement, Jon Lester is finding ways to positively influence the Cubs’ pitching staff.

Specifically, lend his knowledge as a 16-year big-league veteran to help a young lefty in the Cubs’ rotation.

In fact, Justin Steele turned in one of the best starts of his career Sunday after receiving advice Lester passed along to him through manager David Ross.

Ross called Steele into his office last week after Lester texted the Cubs manager with some feedback for Steele.

“One of the main things was establishing the four-seam [fastball] command down and in to righties on that inner third,” Steele said after his outing Sunday. “[Lester] said establishing that will kind of open up everything else."

Steele focused on Lester’s advice during his bullpen session between starts last week and took it into Sunday’s outing.

The Cardinals had a right-handed heavy lineup Sunday. Of the 29 batters Steele faced, 21 of them saw a first-pitch four-seam fastball.

He threw 25 pitches the first time through the Cardinals’ order, 21 of which were his four-seamer.

“That was my main focus," Steele said of establishing his four-seam command.

Lester’s advice paid off. Steele tied his career-high by throwing seven innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) and scattered seven hits with three walks.

“To carry some weight in a conversation, I don't know whether these guys look at me like I was this longtime big leaguer,” Ross said.

“But I know Jon Lester carries some weight when you bring that up to a left-handed pitcher.”

Ross' modesty aside, his voice certainly carries significant weight when talking to young pitchers like Steele. He caught 15 years in the big leagues and won a pair of championships.

“Anytime [Ross] opens his mouth, especially speaking one-on-one, I'm going to listen to what he says,” Steele said. “It helps tremendously."

And whether Lester has a future career in coaching, he seems to be enjoying retirement life. 

“I also got a text following that up and said Jon didn't want to be a pitching coach,” Ross joked.

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