Maddon on Lester: 'I can't be more excited'

Maddon on Lester: 'I can't be more excited'

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Lester admitted he's had trouble fielding since high school, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn't too concerned about that aspect of the left-hander's game, especially after his first spring outing.

"Right now, I think his delivery and his stuff are better than at any time last year," Maddon said Friday of Lester, who made his first start on Thursday, giving up seven hits over two innings against the Mariners. "Right now, what I'm seeing, I'm really impressed.

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"You can look at the game yesterday, and people are going to draw the wrong conclusions," Maddon said. "His delivery and stuff are outstanding, his cutter is there. ... The velocity is up. I cannot be more excited than I am about him right now moving forward."

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Maddon said the Cubs will continue to work with Lester on varying his delivery times as a way to offset any problems the pitcher has regarding holding baserunners on.

"Yes, we have to work on it," Maddon said. "I love that he's conceding that point, and it's something we'll work on, but more than that, last year, we had to work through the same issues and he did not have the same delivery and the ball coming out of his hand, and ended up pretty darn strong. I'm not going to make any predictions right here, but I see this guy off to a good start going into the season."

Worth noting

Shane Victorino was a late scratch on Friday because of tightness in his left calf. Victorino, who signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs on Feb. 26, is 2-for-10 so far in four Cactus League games. According to the Cubs, the soreness in his calf got worse as the morning went on, and Victorino was lifted as a precautionary measure.

• Former Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal will be one of Major League Baseball's special guests when the Rays play the Cuban National Team in Havana on March 22. Cardenal, Derek Jeter and Luis Tiant will accompany the MLB contingent. Cardenal played for the Cubs from 1972-77. The Rays' trip will mark the first visit to Cuba by an MLB franchise since the Orioles played an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team in March 1999.

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