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Schwarber the DH; Zobrist handles Monster

Lester back at Fenway; Maddon talks NL vs. AL
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

BOSTON -- Kyle Schwarber was the designated hitter for the first game of the Cubs' Interleague series against the Red Sox, partly to give him a breather and also because Ben Zobrist is a little more familiar with how to deal with the Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park.

"Zo's very accomplished and has played here before," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Zobrist, who started in left. "That wall is different. It's about how to get off of it, the carom, where should you be. It's a smaller area of the ballpark, but playing a high wall presents a different set of concerns."

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BOSTON -- Kyle Schwarber was the designated hitter for the first game of the Cubs' Interleague series against the Red Sox, partly to give him a breather and also because Ben Zobrist is a little more familiar with how to deal with the Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park.

"Zo's very accomplished and has played here before," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Zobrist, who started in left. "That wall is different. It's about how to get off of it, the carom, where should you be. It's a smaller area of the ballpark, but playing a high wall presents a different set of concerns."

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This also is Schwarber's first year back after tearing two ligaments in his left knee in the third game of the 2016 season.

"It's good to get Schwarber off his feet," Maddon said.

Said Kris Bryant: "[Zobrist] knows what to do. It's a different type of field."

• Even though the addition of the designated hitter makes the Cubs "stronger," Maddon didn't hide his preference for which league he likes better.

"I still like the National League game better," Maddon said. "I think the National League game is a better game of baseball than the American League game of baseball. I can say that now after having done it for a couple years and doing both. From a real baseball fan's perspective, being able to think along the different maneuvers and having to understand where your pitcher is at, the potential to double-switch, to me, make it a more interesting game.

"It's a better brand of baseball, it's real baseball."

Maddon then apologized to American League fans.

Jon Lester took the team bus to Fenway Park on Friday. He wasn't sure how to get to the visiting clubhouse. The lefty came up in the Red Sox's organization, and Friday was his first trip back since he was traded in July 2014. He's been looking forward to this series since the schedule came out.

"I saw it first thing, and my wife and my mom and dad were like, 'Hey, we're coming to that one,'" Lester said.

Tweet from @RedSox: A familiar face at @fenwaypark this weekend! pic.twitter.com/vKJgq5AYDU

The lefty had a good photo opportunity too when he took the lineup card out for the first game of the Interleague series.

"We've been through a lot here, the ups and downs," Lester said. "A few really far downs and a couple really good ups. I feel these fans are part of my family and part of me, not only as a baseball player but as a person. It's nice to be back and in front of these guys again."

The Red Sox acknowledged Lester, John Lackey and Koji Uehara with a video tribute before the bottom of the second inning. All three were then caught on camera in the Cubs' dugout and shown on the video board, and they tipped their caps to the crowd.

Albert Almora Jr. took a sneak peek inside the Green Monster before batting practice. He needed to get someone to unlock the door to the area in the wall where the scoreboard operator is.

"It was cool to walk in there," Almora said. "I've been in the one in Wrigley [Field] in center field. I felt there was more room to walk around in Wrigley, but here, it was cool to see the signatures [inside]."

• Fenway Park is Maddon's favorite AL ballpark. His favorite of both leagues?

"I've got Wrigley way ahead of everybody -- Fenway two, and Pittsburgh three," Maddon said. "The difference is the location. We're in a neighborhood [in Chicago]. You drive up to the ballpark, and there's no freeway along the outfield. There are some restaurants and bars, but Wrigley is just a big neighborhood ballpark, and I love it for all for that."

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, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist