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Lester settles in to escape trouble vs. Rockies

Cubs left-hander made his second Cactus League start on Saturday
MLB.com @JohnSchlegelMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- Two batters into his first home start of Cactus League play, Cubs left-hander Jon Lester had allowed a double and RBI single. Sure, it's just Spring Training, but nobody wants to start off a game like that.

So, old pro that he is, Lester tapped into some regular-season gumption while keeping an eye on the fact that he was out there to get in his work. He eventually escaped that jam and allowed just the one run on four hits over his three innings of work Saturday in the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Rockies.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Two batters into his first home start of Cactus League play, Cubs left-hander Jon Lester had allowed a double and RBI single. Sure, it's just Spring Training, but nobody wants to start off a game like that.

So, old pro that he is, Lester tapped into some regular-season gumption while keeping an eye on the fact that he was out there to get in his work. He eventually escaped that jam and allowed just the one run on four hits over his three innings of work Saturday in the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Rockies.

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"It's kind of both," Lester said of balancing the Spring Training and regular-season mentalities in that situation. "You're sitting there trying to work on the things you're working on -- I wanted to throw a lot of fastballs today and we did that. But you give up a couple of hits and a run, and you're out there going, 'OK, now I have to change my focus to a little bit like in-season. What are these guys trying to do in this situation? I've got to minimize the damage. I've got to try to get outs.' "

Mission accomplished, and that made his second outing a success after getting off to a rough start.

Lester wound up getting his work in and finding some of that regular-season fire that he'll need in a few weeks, knowing that if he gets off to another start like that in April, he'll need to find a way to work deep in the game and allow the Cubs' offense to deliver some runs.

One other thing Lester got out of Saturday's start was the opportunity to see how catcher Willson Contreras can throw the ball -- and help Lester with his well-known issues holding runners on base. Contreras nailed DJ LeMahieu trying to steal second and almost had Gerardo Parra picked off first, then buzzed Lester as he tried to nab Parra at second -- earning Lester a warning from Contreras to make sure he's ready to duck.

"Willie's obviously very, very talented back there," Lester said. "With his arm, I think we'll all be able to neutralize a lot of different things, not just myself but our whole staff from top to bottom."

As much as Lester was relieved to get through the first, he was happy to have convinced Cubs manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio that he could go another inning after they met with him as he came to the dugout following the second.

"In years past, I probably wouldn't have been able to talk my way into the third inning, and I was able to do it," Lester said. "I had a quick one, so that was good. You've got to work out of some jams. You've got to figure out that stuff, too."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB.

Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester