Lester al­ready looks locked in

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY RUS­SELL DORSEY, STAFF REPORTER rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

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.

QUINN HAR­RIS/GETTY IM­AGES PHO­TOS

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.

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