Lester's time to step up for Chicago Cubs in Game 1
ST. LOUIS -- With Jake Arrieta having pitched Wednesday in the wild-card victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the ace of the Chicago Cubs' pitching staff is out until Monday's Game 3 of the National League division series.
Jon Lester goes in Game 1 Friday, and manager Joe Maddon said youngster Kyle Hendricks would pitch Saturday's Game 2, with veteran Jason Hammel a possibility for a fourth game.
"A lot is going to depend on how the first three games go," Maddon said of Hammel. "He'll be out of the bullpen early, and then we'll see what's available by Game 4."
Hendricks, 25, finished an up-and-down season strong, posting quality starts in his final 3 outings of the season.
"You saw the last couple of games and the fact that he's really, I think been really sharp," Maddon said. "The fact that he puts the ball on the ground matters a lot, too. Keep the ball out of the air. He's just been very sharp, so we just chose to do that."
"And then it's going to get back to the idea if you don't use Jason Hammel before that, you probably will see him in Game 4, but if we need him sooner than that you'll see him sooner than that, and then we'll have to make an adjustment for Game 4."
In the leading role:
The Cubs brought Jon Lester in last winter to be their ace, signing him to a six-year deal worth $155 million. Lester finished the season 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA.
Jake Arrieta, who assumed the role of ace last year, never relinquished it, even though Lester was the Cubs' opening-night starting pitcher. Now he's the Cubs' Game 1 starting pitcher in a playoff series, something the Cubs probably envisioned when they signed him.
"I think you've got to look at the bigger body of work than just one game," Lester said. "I would like to think the guys in that clubhouse look at … the greater body of work than just the outcome of tomorrow."
During Wednesday night's champagne-soaked victory celebration, Lester reiterated one big reason he came to the Cubs.
"Listen, I came here to win," he said. "I wouldn't have signed here if Theo (team president Epstein) didn't make me believe we were going to win. Joe (Maddon) set a goal of 90 wins. I guarantee you every one of us, including me, I'm watching everything this guy says, especially to a place I'm coming to, and he says 90 wins out of the gate.
"He hasn't met anybody yet. He's met Theo. That speaks volumes."
Few changes expected:
The Cubs will set their roster for the NLDS by 10 a.m. Friday. For the one-game playoff against the Pirates, they went with 15 position players and 10 pitchers.
Joe Maddon said the Cubs wouldn't have "significant" changes, but they'll carry at least 11 pitchers "because you can't have the same configuration based on a five-game series over a one-game series … But it's not dramatically different, honestly."
He said it:
Asked about a "real or imagined" hangover from Wednesday's victory celebration, Joe Maddon said: "It wasn't imagined, man."
But, seriously, he said the one-game playoff provided a test to his players.
"I know we will be ready tomorrow," Maddon said Thursday. "Truly, when you go through a moment like we did (Wednesday), we played Game 7 already.
"Think about it. So you go through a moment where you have to win in order to advance. That's the most intense game you're going to play all year."