Jon Lester pitches 2 sharp innings

MESA, Ariz. -- In front of the largest spring training crowd ever, new Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester threw as advertised on Friday, facing the minimum in his two-inning debut in a Cubs uniform.

Lester got ahead of all but one Cincinnati Reds batter while striking out three in front of 15,331. He gave up one hit, a broken-bat single to Chris Dominguez in the second inning, which was quickly erased by a double-play ball. Lester threw so efficiently he wrapped up his day with a few more tosses in the bullpen.

"Usually the first one you're getting taken out (due to a pitch count) but today I was able to fill the strike zone up," Lester said. "The first one is always tough. Now you just build and look forward to the next one."

It didn't look tough as Lester threw 24 pitches, including 20 strikes. Between the first and second innings he struck out three consecutive batters: Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

"I was just happy I was able to pitch up in the zone," Lester said. "I got away with that a little bit."

It didn't hurt that Lester had a familiar face behind the plate in the form of catcher David Ross. Ross signed a two-year deal with the Cubs after catching 29 of Lester's starts over the past two seasons, including the 2013 playoffs.

"It's always good when you have comfort, when you see comfort, when you feel comfort," Lester said of Ross. "That's something you fall back on."

Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in the offseason, becoming the ace of a franchise that hasn't won a World Series since 1908. He's looking to change that as one of the quiet leaders of the team.

"He's exactly what I expected," manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "He's the guy that leads by example (but) if he were to say something, (like) E.F. Hutton, everyone would listen."

Lester has taken the mindset that even though he's joined a young, rebuilding team, he isn't going to let youth be an excuse.

"Time to grow up sometime," Lester said. "When I played in Boston we didn't have time to grow up. You just had to show up and play. Each year we were expected to win. That's how I feel. Every year they should come in and expect to be not only division winners but world champs. If you don't, you're playing for the wrong reasons."

Lester is scheduled to pitch again next Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maddon has already named Lester his Opening Day starter.