Lester gets work in during intrasquad game

Cubs' Opening Day starter eager for regular-season games, routine

Lester gets work in during intrasquad game

MESA, Ariz. -- Opening Day starter Jon Lester threw mostly fastballs in his five innings of work against Cubs Minor League players on Thursday as he tried to find the right direction on his pitches.

"There's no reason to have Jon pitch against the Dodgers right now," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said about having Lester start in Mesa at 10:30 a.m. MST rather than face Los Angeles in a Cactus League game in Glendale, Ariz. "It's all about getting his work in. We're not worried about the competition component. Let him get his work done in a controlled situation."

Jeffrey Baez, who played at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach last season, collected three extra-base hits off Lester in the outing, but the lefty wasn't concerned.

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"You're going against those guys and those guys are facing a big league pitcher, and they want to do well and I'm just trying not to die out there, basically," Lester said. "We threw a lot of fastballs. They knew that. We're just trying to work on things. I'm trying to get my fastball back to the right angle, right location. I missed a lot today. That's what these days are for."

Lester looks ahead to 2017

Because it was an intrasquad game -- the Double-A squad was facing the Triple-A team -- the Cubs could end an inning when they wanted to and catcher Willson Contreras could get an at-bat every inning.

Lester is ready for games that count. He was even asking coach Mike Borzello for a scouting report prior to his first Cactus League start. Without one, "you're really pitching naked down here," Lester said.

"I could definitely use some information and go through the normal routine of getting ready for a game," he said.

The constant every time Lester pitches has been Contreras, who is replacing David Ross as the lefty's catcher. During Thursday's game, Contreras threw to second to try and get a basestealer. Lester has to remind himself to duck.

"Willie's so talented back there, he'll combat 95 percent of [the running game] himself," said Lester, whose problems throwing to first to hold runners on have been well documented. "I'm not too concerned about it. It is what it is. I haven't run from it. Willie's very talented.

"[He is] a little bit quicker than ol' Grandpa [Ross]," Lester said. "You just get the hell out of the way. There's no lollygagging around. It's bad when [Contreras] throws it harder to second base than you're throwing to home plate. It's fun except when it's coming at your head."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.