Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon made it official Monday: Jon Lester will start Opening Night, April 5, for the Cubs against the Cardinals.

Early in camp, Maddon indicated it was fairly obvious that Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, would kick off the Cubs season. But he wanted to talk to the left-hander first.

"I talked to Jon," Maddon said Monday. "Jon will start Opening Night."

Lester will make his first Cactus League start Friday against the Reds at Sloan Park.

The Cubs open the Spring Training schedule with split squad games Thursday. Travis Wood will face the Athletics in Mesa, while Jacob Turner will start against the Giants in Scottsdale. After Lester's start Friday, Jason Hammel and Felix Doubront will pitch Saturday against the Rockies, and Jake Arrieta will go Sunday against the Rangers. Edwin Jackson and Kyle Hendricks will pitch Monday against the Padres.

Lester, Arrieta and Hammel are set for the rotation, and Maddon indicated Monday that Hendricks also appears to have locked the No. 4 spot. That leaves several pitchers battling for one opening, including Jackson and Wood. Maddon did add that things can change between now and the end of Spring Training.

"The competition around here is unbelievable on so many different levels," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.