One ‘yip’ only blip for Lester

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY STEVE GREENBERG, STAFF REPORTER sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @SLGreen­berg

Jon Lester looked like his old self Sun­day at Wrigley Field. In more ways than one.

Pitch­ing for the first time in an in­trasquad scrim­mage since the Cubs be­gan pre­sea­son work­outs, Lester — who’s not as far along as most of the other mem­bers of the ro­ta­tion — threw 2⅓ in­nings and ap­peared to be in full com­mand.

The lefty struck out Al­bert Almora and Kyle Sch­war­ber in a 1-2-3 first in­ning. Then he struck out Jason Hey­ward and David Bote in what should’ve been a 1-2-3 sec­ond in­ning.

But we men­tioned the “old self ” thing, did we not? With two outs in the sec­ond, Nico Ho­erner bounced a softly hit come­backer to Lester, who fielded the ball on the sec­ond bounce, whirled to­ward first base and … wait for it … keep wait­ing.

Most pitch­ers would’ve made the throw in plenty of time for the third out. Lester — still ut­terly un­com­fort­able with throws around the in­field — thought bet­ter of try­ing.

Ho­erner’s “hit” was the only one al­lowed by Lester, and it was as cheap as cheap gets. The only other bat­ter who reached base off him, Almora, did so on an er­ror by short­stop Javy Baez.

This and that

An­thony Rizzo missed the scrim­mage, his third con­sec­u­tive lim­ited day while re­cov­er­ing from a sore back, but he did be­gin to ramp things back up. Rizzo took early bat­ting prac­tice in the cage, faced Colin Rea in live bat­ting prac­tice and fielded some ground balls at first base.

Man­ager David Ross was en­cour­aged to see Rizzo swing and miss at a cou­ple of change­ups that fooled him — which can be bad news for a sore back — with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any real dis­com­fort.

Sec­ond base­man Jason Kip­nis con­tin­ues to im­press with a good camp. No one is run­ning harder on the bases.

“Re­ally push­ing the en­ve­lope,” Ross said. “He looks in mid­sea­son form. I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Start­ing per­haps on Tues­day, the Cubs will have ac­tual um­pires at their in­trasquad scrim­mages. Vet­eran Tony Ran­dazzo and his crew will be sta­tioned at Wrigley. That means no more call­ing balls and strikes for men­tal skills coach John Baker, which no one is likely to mind one bit.

JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES

Jon Lester showed great com­mand in his stint in an in­trasquad game Sun­day at Wrigley Field.

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