Jon Lester on throwing to first: 'Not a big issue'

CHICAGO – Calling it “blown out of proportion” Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester says he has no issues with throwing to first base with a runner on even though he hasn’t done it since April 2013.

“I really didn’t have to do it over the past year or so,” Lester said Wednesday morning. “Coming over here is a little bit different, more runners, part of the game. Something we’ll implement.

“This was not a big issue until someone brought it up on television. Now I’m sitting answering questions about it.”

Lester lasted only 4.1 innings on Sunday night as the Cubs fell to the Cardinals 3-0 in his debut with the team. St. Louis stole three bases off Lester, was caught once and took big leadoffs whenever it had the opportunity.

“Did it [threw over] in spring, did it all spring,” Lester said. “The biggest thing right now is working on something different. Anytime you’re working on something different it takes a while.”

Lester didn’t elaborate on what he was working on but now that teams know he’s less willing to throw over they’re bound to take advantage. The Cardinals did.

“He’s never been a terrific pick-off guy,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “but it’s never been something that’s been a concern either.”

Maybe no one noticed early last season but by the end of the year Lester admitted it became a topic of conversation. The opposition stole 16 bases off him in 2014 – that’s not a high total -- but it was the highest against Lester in three years. And according to ESPN Stats and Information, his stolen base percentage (77 percent) is sixth worst among regular starters over the past three seasons just as his throws to first have declined. After a nationally televised opening game on Sunday it can’t stay under the radar.

“That’s not something you grind on someone because that can be counter-productive,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You work on it, you work on it until someone becomes more comfortable with it then you do it.

“From the outside looking you think it should be relatively easy but for some people it’s harder than for others. We’ll continue to work on it.”

Lester continued to stress he has no problem throwing over to first, but it’s obvious throwing to bases isn’t his forte – that includes balls he fields as well. He had a chance to gun a runner out at third base on Sunday but chose to underhand the ball to first instead.

“He’s never been Andy Pettite,” Hoyer said. “Last year he got away from it. It’s something he needs to work on.”

So while admitting he’s working on it Lester also says it’s a non-issue.

“It must have been a slow news day and they wanted to talk about it,” Lester stated. “It’s something that’s getting blown out of proportion right now. There’s nothing to talk about at the beginning of the year.”