No bad blood: Cubs have no ill will toward Mets

Cubs' Maddon says NLCS loss didn't devalue season

No bad blood: Cubs have no ill will toward Mets

LAS VEGAS -- Seeing the Mets for the first time since they posted a four-game sweep in the National League Championship Series last October didn't get the Cubs' blood boiling on Thursday.

"When you see the Mets, it's not like you're motivated to win more games because they beat you at the end of last year," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, noting the Wild Card win over the Pirates and beating the Cardinals in the NL Division Series were more motivating.

"If anybody was upset with last season, come see me," Maddon said of the Cubs' 97-win season. "There's nothing to be upset about. It was a great building block for us. Our goal is get farther than we did last year. It was a great season nonetheless and you do want to focus on the positives."

The Cubs wrapped up the exhibition portion of their schedule with two games against the Mets at Cashman Field, with the first game on Thursday. In the NLCS, the Cubs had trouble against the Mets pitchers, batting .164. With the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, are the Cubs better suited to deal with the Mets pitching?

"I think they help," Maddon said. "I also want to believe the natural progression of a young hitter to be able to work an at-bat, move the baseball in the latter part of the count, should just naturally be better. Our DNA has been to power the baseball. I've made a push in this camp for the bigger guys to understand to make adaptations when you get into the count."

• Outfielder Dexter Fowler, sidelined since he hit a home run in the first inning on Sunday because of mild tightness in his left side, could play Friday in the Cubs' final exhibition game against the Mets. The Cubs still have one more game Sunday against the Angels before the regular season begins Monday in Anaheim.

• Maddon was not surprised at all to see Jon Lester hit a home run, and predicts the Cubs pitcher will fare much better at the plate this season. Lester hit a two-run shot against the Rockies on Wednesday in the team's last Cactus League game in Mesa, Ariz. It was his first professional home run.

Lester's two-run home run

"I've been saying all last year he has a great swing," Maddon said of the lefty. "It didn't surprise me. He'll get more hits this year. He's got a technically good swing, he's a good bunter.

"I thought he did a great job controlling the bunting game yesterday. His pitching was spot on. I loved everything about his day yesterday. He'll get some big hits for himself. He has, mechanically, technically a really good swing."

Maddon also said Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta is on track for Monday's game. The blister on Arrieta's right thumb is not a factor.

"It's like it was never there," Maddon said.

John Lackey, who will follow Arrieta and Lester in the Cubs rotation, threw seven innings Thursday in a Minor League game in Mesa, Ariz., to prepare for the season.

• Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg will throw out ceremonial first pitches on April 11 before the Cubs home opener at Wrigley Field. The gates will open 30 minutes earlier than the standard two-hour window to accommodate the new security procedures implemented at Wrigley Field this season. There will be mandatory metal detector screenings as fans enter the gates. Fans are encouraged to arrive earlier this season and can find information about the new screening process at www.cubs.com/security.

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.