Jon Lester trying 'Jordan-to-Pippen bounce' in unorthodox attempt to solve throwing problem

Jon Lester is trying to channel his inner Chicago Bull to solve his well-documented throwing problem.

Lester told reporters Sunday that he's been working on intentionally bouncing throws to first base this spring training, referring to Bulls legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

"We've been working on the Jordan-to-Pippen bounce pass," said Lester, who revealed that he has been trying out the new approach with Cubs third-base coach Brian Butterfield.

"Just eliminate all tension and bounce it over there. ... I don't really care what it looks like. I don't care if it bounces 72 times over there. An out's an out."
Jon Lester

Lester has struggled throwing to bases throughout his career and usually resorts to underhand tosses after fielding a comebacker. The veteran left-hander said he and Butterfield have been practicing the bounce throws on the back fields this spring.

"In [Butterfield's] words, just eliminate all tension and bounce it over there," Lester told reporters. "We've been working on it early in the morning. ... I don't really care what it looks like. I don't care if it bounces 72 times over there. An out's an out."

Lester had a chance to try out the new approach during Sunday's spring training game against the Diamondbacks, when he fielded a comebacker off the bat of Arizona's David Peralta.

But after initially bobbling the ball, Lester bounced a throw past Cubs first baseman Efren Navarro for a two-base throwing error. Lester said after the game that he has been working on the throws with regular first baseman Anthony Rizzo and that Navarro, who is with the Cubs on a minor league deal, was not expecting the unorthodox method.

"I feel bad for the guy today," Lester said. "He had no idea what's going on. He's never been a part of it. With Rizz, probably the surprise wouldn't have been there."

One reason behind the bounce throws, according to Lester, is to decrease third baseman Kris Bryant's and catcher Willson Contreras' defensive responsibilities on bunts near the mound.

"[Butterfield] is trying to make that next step for me, so with the bunt, I don't have to rely on [Bryant] to run in 30 feet to field the ball or [Contreras] to make an unbelievable play," Lester said. "It's so I can get the ball and get it over to [Rizzo] and get an out."

Lester, 34, also has struggled with pickoff throws to first base and often avoids throwing, relying instead on holding the ball for an extended period. Opposing baserunners stole 19 bases against Lester last season and have 91 stolen bases over the past three years against the four-time All-Star.

Lester cited his open relationship with coaches and teammates as helpful in potentially solving his throwing problem.

"I've never run from it," he said. "I feel for the most part, I've been upfront about everything. I feel I've worked my butt off to get better at things. I've tried to speed my delivery up, vary my holds, whatever it is. Obviously, from the outside looking in, it's kind of like, 'Why can't you do that?' Like I've said many times before, if I knew why, the things wouldn't be an issue."