Lester figures to lead Chicago Cubs' all-star contingent
The rosters for the American League and National League all-star teams will be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday, and the Chicago Cubs should be well represented.
Catcher Willson Contreras had moved into the lead over the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey in fan balloting, and second baseman Javier Baez was within striking distance of a spot. It's possible center fielder Albert Almora Jr. could be added as a reserve or placed on the fans' final ballot.
One shoo-in should be Sunday's starting pitcher Jon Lester, who takes a record of 11-2 and an ERA of 2.25 against the Cincinnati Reds.
Lester, 34, is doing this as the second half of his six-year, $155 million deal has kicked in.
"He's just such a reliable guy," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "Anytime you sign a free-agent contract, you feel like the first half of the contract is where you get the majority of your value, and you hope for contributions in the second half of the contract.
"As he has started the second half of his deal this year, to perform the way that he has is just a huge testament to his work ethic, his desire, how much he wants to win. I think he's a guy who really competes with himself to pitch in a manner that he can be proud of, and he's certainly done that."
Baez, who upped his line to .294/.327/.565 on Saturday, said he would love to make it.
"I'm sure every player wants to be in the All-Star Game," he said. "It is what it is. If I got the number to go, hopefully I go. That's one of my goals."
Baez hit his 17th homer of the season Saturday in the Cubs' 8-7 victory over the Reds. That ties him for the team lead with Kyle Schwarber.
Bryant steps it up:
Third baseman Kris Bryant took early batting practice on the field Saturday morning and then fielded grounders.
It's more than likely Bryant soon will head out on a minor-league rehab assignment as he finishes his time on the disabled list from inflammation in his left shoulder.
"I talked to him (Friday) on the bench, and he's feeling a lot better," manager Joe Maddon said. "Just talking specifically about, 'Take your swing and then we'll figure it out and try to figure out how many you need, how many at-bats you may need to feel comfortable coming back and playing with us.' That's going to be the next step."
This and that:
Jason Heyward, who started in center field, left the game in the fourth inning after taking a foul ball to the groin in the bottom of the third. … Brandon Morrow is the first Cubs pitcher with at least 20 saves before the all-star break since Kerry Wood had 24 in 2008. … Reliever Randy Rosario tied a career high with 2⅓ innings pitched and also collected his first career hit and RBI with a single in the sixth. He leads all Cubs relievers with 4 wins.