Lester already looks locked in
The Cubs have been adamant about taking things slow with veteran left-hander Jon Lester during summer camp and if Wednesday’s performance is any indication, it has served him well.
Lester kept the Twins’ ‘A’ lineup off balance in a 4-3 win in the last exhibition game before the season opens Friday. He threw 66 pitches in 4„ innings, allowing one run on one hit and striking out four. He also walked two and hit a batter.
“Jon’s our [No. 4] starter,” manager David Ross said. “I got a ton of confidence in Jon. It’s continuing on that veteran plan as some of these guys have to pace themselves and really build towards the season. He’s no different than guys like Craig [Kimbrel] and veterans that are used to building during spring training with the expectation of hitting the ground running whenever day one starts.”
Lester is scheduled to make his season debut Monday against the Reds.
Contreras stays red hot
If anybody is ready for the season to start, it’s Willson Contreras.
The Cubs’ All-Star catcher has been sharp at the plate during summer camp and continued his hot pace Wednesday.
Contreras hit a pair of homers in his first two at-bats against the Twins, including an opposite-field shot in the first inning and a towering 431-foot blast in the third.
Bryant scratched with back tightness
Kris Bryant was scratched from the lineup ahead of the game with back tightness.
Ross said before the game that Bryant was available to pinch-hit and likely would have played if it were a regular-season game but decided to be cautious.
“It is next man up, though. You never know. It gives a lot of guys other opportunities that might not get them,” Ross said. “The at-bats are tough to spread out right now, especially as we approach the season in a couple of days. So more at-bats for some of the guys that may not get some for a little bit, or be more in a pinch-hit situation or guys that are coming off the bench.”
Bryant, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, slashed .282/.382/.521 with 31 homers, 35 doubles, 74 walks and a 134 OPS+ in 2019.
Cubs sign third-round pick Nwogu
The Cubs signed third-round draft pick
Jordan Nwogu on Wednesday. The 6-3, 235-pound outfielder out of Michigan was the last member of the Cubs’ 2020 draft class to sign. Nwogu signed for full slot value of $678,600, according to reports.
Nwogu was off to a fast start in his junior season before the NCAA season shutdown, hitting .353 with two home runs and an .845 OPS in 15 games as Michigan’s leadoff hitter. He slashed .334/.430/.545 with 20 homers, 23 doubles, 30 steals, 79 RBI and 97 runs scored in 125 games in his three seasons in Ann Arbor.
Jon Lester (right) allowed one run and struck out four Twins in 4⅓ innings. Willson Contreras (above) hit two solo home runs Wednesday, continuing his hot pace at the plate.