Jon Lester really wanted to impress his new organization.
Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs over the offseason, started slow in his first season in the Windy City. The left-hander since has turned things around, but he admits the pressure of pitching under such a lucrative contract initially had a negative impact.
?At times, it?s a good feeling. At times, it can be that monkey on your back — especially early,” Lester said, according to the Providence Journal, after tossing a gem Monday against the Cleveland Indians. “You want to come out and do well. That?s what put me behind the eight ball in spring training.
“I?m used to my routine of going out and throwing fastballs and knowing where I?ll be at at certain times — and not really having that pressure to get off to a good start in spring training. But when you come into something like this, you feel like you have to do more. I tried to show a little too much a little too early.?
Lester, like most pitchers, went through a dead arm period in spring training. He then posted a 6.23 ERA over his first four starts and owned a 4.25 ERA as recently as June 9. It hardly was the type of production the Cubs expected when they broke the bank for the longtime Boston Red Sox ace, especially with expectations soaring in Chicago after a six-year playoff drought.
?When you get into the season, you want to be what everybody talks about instead of just realizing that if you go and make your pitches and execute your pitches over and over again, at the end of the year, nine times out of 10, you should look up and be within that window of where you?re normally at in your career,” Lester said, per the Providence Journal. “That was hard, just coming in with the all the expectations — especially with the expectations with the team, wanting to get off to a good start personally and for these guys. It puts a little bit of weight on your shoulders.
“But as things have gone along, I?ve felt more and more comfortable.?
Lester went at least seven innings in each of his six July starts. His ERA is down to 3.44 after tossing 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball Monday against the Indians. While one could argue Jake Arrieta has been Chicago’s best pitcher this season, Lester again has the look of a front-line starter.
Lester, a two-time World Series champion, was viewed as Chicago’s savior. The Cubs learned he’s only human. But a growing sense of comfort has both Lester and his new organization in a good place.
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