Hammel works long first inning in spring debut

Right-hander enjoying reunion with 'laid-back' Maddon at Cubs camp

Hammel works long first inning in spring debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Other than throwing most of his pitch allotment to the first two batters on Saturday, Jason Hammel's first Cactus League outing went well.

The Cubs right-hander walked the first Rockies batter he faced, then served up a single to Roger Bernadina and a three-run homer to Nolan Arenado. Hammel did finish his two innings.

"I didn't envision throwing 20 pitches to the first two batters of the year of my 2015," Hammel said. "Hats off to the first two batters for working me deep. A long inning to start the year is always fun."

His goal for the first outing was simply to get through it healthy, and he achieved that. Hammel is one of the few Cubs who previously knew manager Joe Maddon, having played for him in Tampa Bay from 2006-08.

"It's been a very positive, upbeat camp, guys are having fun," Hammel said. "We're not out there trying to prove we're world beaters, but we have a plan and a game plan we're going to stick to.

"With Joe, it's a different kind of camp, very laid-back. I think a lot of the young guys are doing it right, and coming in and getting their work done and going about their business the way they should. The veteran guys know what they're supposed to get done to get ready."

Jon Lester was named the Cubs' Opening Night starter, and humbly accepted the news via Twitter. On Wednesday, Lester posted on his Twitter: "Honored to get the nod for Opening Day, but right now the focus is on preparation and improvement. Friday can't come soon enough. #NVRQT"

The reference to Friday was for Lester's first Cubs start, in which he struck out three over two innings. "NVRQT" is Lester's foundation.

On Saturday, Lester posted: "Great atmosphere to get the spring started, thank you @Cubs fans for all the support. Plenty to work on and build from! Here we go! #NVRQT"

• Cubs players wore new T-shirts on Saturday during warmups to honor Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. The front of the shirts said, "Let's Play Two," and the back had No. 14 and "Mr. Cub." Banks died in January, one week shy of his 84th birthday. The Cubs are paying tribute to the Hall of Famer all season, but this was something done by the clubhouse staff.

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.