MESA, Arizona — Monday was an off day for the Chicago Cubs, their last until a week from Wednesday, the day before the season opener in Texas.
Well, it was an off day for all the big-league Cubs except Jon Lester, who threw six innings in a game against Rockies minor leaguers. Another big-league Cub, Victor Caratini, also gave up his off day to catch Lester. That also tells me that Willson Contreras, who was hit by a foul tip in a game last Thursday, might not quite be ready to come back, as Contreras likely would have caught Lester Monday if he had been 100 percent.
Far from the 16,000 who can jam Sloan Park or the 40,000 common at Wrigley Field, about 100 people (mostly family members of the players and other organization players who weren’t in the game) watched Lester and a team of Class-A Cubs against the Rox minor leaguers on Field 6 at the Cubs complex at 1 p.m. Arizona time.
I took some video that I ran on the BCB Facebook page live (all but the first inning), which I’ll show you in a moment, and I want to thank cubs.com beat writer Jordan Bastian for keeping much closer track of the game itself than I could while I was shooting the live video:
First inning: 10 pitches (8 strikes), two called strikeouts and a 4-1 groundout.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 18, 2019
13 (8) in second frame. One run, one walk and one extra-base hit allowed. Has three punchouts through two. All first-pitch strikes so far. Young hitters hacking vs. the vet in early counts.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 18, 2019
11 (9) in the third. Infield single to short (likely a 6-3 in the bigs) to go with another K and 1-3 groundout. Runner caught stealing by Caratini.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 18, 2019
Lester: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 6 groundouts, 87 pitches (61 strikes). Both runs were Minor Leaguer-aided. He focused on cutter. Mixed curveball first pitch. Called changeup “terrible” but said a few worked properly along the way.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 18, 2019
I concur with Bastian — the runs scored as a result of plays that big-league fielders would have made. I thought the curveball looked pretty good, and the changeup wasn’t as “terrible” as Lester thought, but he’s probably his own harshest critic. Also, you’ll note the tweet says Lester “focused” on his cutter; often, a pitcher will do this in spring training, work on a specific pitch for one outing rather than throwing the best pitch to get a hitter out. This is why results of spring games mean almost nothing.
Here’s video of the second through sixth innings and you can judge for yourself. Apologies for the few jostles of my phone and for the occasional poor video quality.
Jon Lester pitching in minor league gamePosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Monday, March 18, 2019
Jon Lester pitching in minor league game 3rd inningPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Monday, March 18, 2019
Jon Lester pitching in minor league game 4th inningPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Monday, March 18, 2019
Jon Lester pitching in minor league game 5th inningPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Monday, March 18, 2019
Jon Lester pitching in minor league game 6th inningPosted by Bleed Cubbie Blue on Monday, March 18, 2019
Cubs minor leaguers who played in this game: Miguel Amaya, Aramis Ademan, Jimmy Herron, Austin Filiere, Zach Davis, Fidel Mejia, Grant Fennell and Cole Roederer. Apart from Ademan and Amaya, all those players are 2017 or 2018 draft picks and likely will be at either South Bend or Myrtle Beach this year.
Ademan led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. Here’s that home-run swing:
Here are some other photos I took on Field 6 on an absolutely beautiful, 84-degree spring afternoon.
The Cubs return to Cactus League action Tuesday afternoon at Sloan Park against the Mariners, or at least a few of their minor leaguers, since most of their big-league team is in Japan to open the season vs. the Athletics. Yu Darvish will go for the Cubs; game time Tuesday is 3:05 p.m. CT.