Lester scuffles in loss to Padres

Lefty ace allows six runs in 3 1/3 innings; Cubs held to seven hits

Lester scuffles in loss to Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A lopsided contest in Peoria ended in the home team's favor, with the hard-hitting Padres topping the Cubs, 7-0, Monday afternoon at Peoria Sports Complex.

Brandon Morrow continued to make a strong bid to win the fifth starter job on the Padres' pitching staff, holding the Cubs to three hits over four scoreless frames. He yielded base hits to Arismendy Alcantara and Jorge Soler in the first but ended the inning by striking out Cubs slugging prospect Kris Bryant.

Morrow then retired eight consecutive batters before yielding a double to Bryant in the fourth. He's allowed one earned run over three spring starts, totaling nine innings.

"All you can do is go out and pitch well," Morrow said. "That's the only thing you can do to secure a spot and it's all I'm trying to do. I've been throwing well, I've been feeling good and my arm's healthy. I'm throwing all four of my pitches for strikes."

Jon Lester allowed his first runs of the spring, yielding five to the Padres over 3 2/3 innings. Derek Norris led off the second with a walk, advanced to third on Will Middlebrooks' double and scored on an error by Padres left fielder Chris Coghlan. Tommy Medica drove in Middlebrooks with a base hit toward second.

Matt Kemp made it 3-0 with a solo homer with two outs in the third, and Medica tacked on two more with a home run to left that scored Will Venable.

Prior to this outing, Lester had held opponents scoreless over five innings, spanning two starts. He was working with his third catcher of the spring, backup Welington Castillo.

In his previous two starts, Lester was so efficient in the game, that he went to the bullpen for extra work after he was pulled. That wasn't the case Monday and the left-hander was not happy with his outing, saying he felt a little off in the bullpen warming up.

" Everything was flat, the ball was up," he said. "I'd execute a pitch, and go back to throwing two or three where I didn't want to. You're not always going to have starts like I've had the past two where you have to go down to the bullpen to throw extras. Obviously, I didn't do a very good job today minimizing any damage. It's things to improve on, things to work on. It's Spring Training, and I hate saying that, but you have step back and look at the big picture. By no means am I happy with how things went today."

Up next: Jason Hammel will make his third spring start on Tuesday when the Cubs face the Royals at Sloan Park in Mesa. So far, the right-hander has given up six earned runs on nine hits over five innings in his outings, and admitted he wasn't crisp in his last start against the Angels. Kris Bryant was expected to be the designated hitter as the Cubs take a cautious approach with their top prospect, slowed because of fatigue in his right shoulder. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.