The Cubs are several games in Cactus League play. They won their first few games against the Brewers, Giants and Padres and lost to the Diamondbacks in split-squad games. Results as usual are not the story, but players are.
A lot of people talked about Kris Bryant’s 2-2 performance Saturday with a two-run home run in the first inning of the opener against the Brewers. Bryant is looking to bounce back and stay healthy in 2019 after being injured last year. His homer looked effortless and he looked like the Bryant of old. After the game he spoke to the media saying he saw all the frustration from the fan base towards him from last year and is motivated to bounce back. He said it is a game of “What have you done for me lately?”
He is not letting criticism (which is not really deserved in the first place) get to him. He is ready to crush the ball in 2019. If he is fully healthy, then expect another MVP-like season. No more Mr. Nice Kris.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester made his spring debut Monday. He did not give up a hit in two innings as he struck out three and walked one. After the game he talked about how he will not let PECOTA projections get to him. He was also asked about the pitch clock and simply said, “Whatever makes people feel better,” elaborating how shaving off a tiny bit of time won’t make much of a difference.
Lester is never the type of guy to be bothered by what other people (or computers) think of him. He knows he is 35 and getting old but he is not losing any confidence pointing out his success (despite the peripherals) in 2018 when he grinded through games. During his game on Monday he hit upper 80s and low 90s on his pitches.
No indications by Joe Maddon have been made, but Lester being the opening day starter seems most likely. It will probably be either be him or Kyle Hendricks.