Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Lester to start Saturday vs. Braves

Lefty throws 50-pitch side session; Russell heading to Chicago for exam
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester will return to the Cubs' rotation Saturday, but the news on shortstop Addison Russell wasn't as encouraging Wednesday.

Russell, who was to make his second Minor League rehab start with Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday night in Memphis, experienced some pain in his right foot and will be examined in Chicago on Thursday. He's been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right foot strain and the Cubs were optimistic he'd return this weekend.

View Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester will return to the Cubs' rotation Saturday, but the news on shortstop Addison Russell wasn't as encouraging Wednesday.

Russell, who was to make his second Minor League rehab start with Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday night in Memphis, experienced some pain in his right foot and will be examined in Chicago on Thursday. He's been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a right foot strain and the Cubs were optimistic he'd return this weekend.

View Full Game Coverage

"All I know is there was a setback," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said about Russell after Wednesday's 17-3 win over the Pirates.

"You look at the shortstop position, and of course, [Javier Baez] is doing a wonderful job, but after that, it becomes different," Maddon said, noting the lack of depth at that spot on the roster. "Hopefully, it won't be anything prolonged [for Russell]. We'll see."

On Monday, Russell went 1-for-3 with Iowa, hitting a double in his first at-bat. He was to have played six to seven innings in the field Wednesday.

"Addy's a big part of the team," Baez said. "Hopefully, he comes back soon."

Lester, who has been out since Aug. 18 because of fatigue in his left shoulder, threw 50 pitches in a side session Wednesday and will return against the Braves at Wrigley Field.

"He's smiling, which is always a good sign," Maddon said of Lester. "It's always good when a player is coming off an injury that he's smiling easily. I'm seeing everything trending in the right direction."

The Cubs will go with a six-man rotation for now, keeping lefty Mike Montgomery in the mix and having him start Sunday in the series finale against the Braves. Montgomery was 2-0 and had given up one run over 13 innings in two starts subbing for Lester.

Willson Contreras, who is also on the disabled list, had an active day on Wednesday, handling balls behind the plate from a pitching machine and also throwing to second base. Contreras, out since Aug. 11 with a right hamstring strain, was expected to be sidelined for a minimum of four weeks, and that timeline has not changed.

Reliever Justin Grimm (right index finger infection) allowed two hits and fanned two during a scoreless inning of relief on Wednesday night with Iowa.

Worth noting
• The Cubs had a refresher course on bunting prior to Wednesday's game. It's part of Maddon's plan.

"In lieu of traditionally trying to hit balls in the seats [during batting practice], I prefer doing work like this, especially at this time of the year," Maddon said.

The drills will continue in September as the coaches pick one day each week to go over fundamentals.

"We like to do things like this at this time of the year," Maddon said. "When you're in a pretty good position in your division and playing well and ask guys to do this, it's not difficult. They understand the importance of doing it.

"You get to this time of the year and bring whatever is in the back of your mind to the front, so when the situation occurs, it's not a surprise."

Koji Uehara served up one home run in 33 games before the All-Star break, and he's given up six in 15 games since entering Wednesday, including a solo homer on Tuesday night to the Pirates' John Jaso. Uehara had a 2.73 ERA in the first half; he had a 7.11 ERA in the second half entering Wednesday.

Video: PIT@CHC: Jaso belts a solo homer to right

"I'm trying to get him to understand -- when you give up a home run like that, you think you're not throwing well, but he is," Maddon said. "We're doing some work to try to figure out exactly what's going on here. This is one of those things you have to drill down into, because from the side he looks exactly the same. It's the homer, then he gets an out, then he gets a blooper to left field."

The Cubs' video crew is studying video to see if it can pick up something.

"A lot of times you look at something like that and say, 'His mechanics are off, he's got to throw another pitch,' all this crazy stuff," Maddon said. "We're working on something now and there's some relevance to what I heard, and the next step would be to take that to him specifically.

"For my money, he does not look any different than he did at the beginning of the year. They've squared some balls up on him lately. I believe that as long as he's healthy, that will go away."

Tommy La Stella was batting .333 this month entering Wednesday and has provided a spark, especially with Russell sidelined. How important is he? During drills on Wednesday, La Stella was standing near the batter's box when Baez was bunting. Maddon asked La Stella to step back to avoid being accidentally hit.

"I said, 'Tommy, about a month ago, it wouldn't have mattered,'" Maddon quipped.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras, Jon Lester, Addison Russell