Even from retirement, Jon Lester continues to make an impact on the Cubs.
Recently, the five-time All-Star and former Chicago hurler connected with his former battery mate and current Cubs manager David Ross. Lester offered up some insights when it came to Justin Steele and how some adjustments in his plan of attack could help yield more positive results.
"“One of the main things was establishing the four-seam command, down and in to righties on that inner third of the righties. He said establishing that would kind of open up everything else, and I took that into my next bullpen and was really focusing on that and then took it into the game tonight.”"
The Cubs came up short in the win column Sunday, but that was through no fault of Steele, who turned in an absolute gem against a Cardinals team that has feasted on left-handed pitching all season long (their .786 OPS against lefties is the third-best mark in all baseball entering Monday).
Steele matched veteran St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright pitch-for-pitch, departing a tied game after seven innings of two-run ball. He struck out just one, but relentlessly pounded the zone with his four-seamer, throwing the pitch more than 70 percent of the time.
Now, given the fact he lacks the velocity to just rear back and blow it past batters, I suspect he might not be quite that aggressive with the fastball his next time out, but the advice from Lester clearly made a difference. He worked off the heater and turned in one of the best starts of his career.
Cubs: Now we wait and see if Justin Steele can maintain moving forward
We’ve gotten a little bit of everything to this point from Steele, who has shown flashes of real potential and also turned in his fair share of middle-of-the-road outings. On the year, he carries a 4.79 ERA, which kind of jumps out at you at first glance, but a 3.35 FIP suggests he may have deserved better.
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There’s a decent chance Steele’s next outing will come against the Yankees later this week in the Bronx, which will be a nice test for the young left-hander, given New York hitters have the fifth-highest slugging percentage in the league against southpaws. Hopefully, these insights from Lester continue to pay off and, in the process, help solidify a Cubs rotation as we get deeper into the summer months.