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Oct. 19 Jon Lester pregame interview

October 19, 2016

Q. What is your confidence level when John Lackey's pitching in games like this?JON LESTER: High, obviously. I mean, I think confidence level for all our guys is high, no matter what we run out there, we feel good about it. So obviously John's been here a lot and had

Q. What is your confidence level when John Lackey's pitching in games like this?
JON LESTER: High, obviously. I mean, I think confidence level for all our guys is high, no matter what we run out there, we feel good about it. So obviously John's been here a lot and had a lot of big games under his belt in his career. So that adds to us being a little more comfortable with him going out there. But my staff's been good all year. We feel good with anybody we run out there with.
Q. What do you think the temperature of the room is as far as how guys are handling this right now? There were some people grousing about guys not being available last night. What do you think the responsibility level is of teammates after a loss to be talking the media through to give information to fans?
JON LESTER: I don't know. I mean, that's their opinion. I'd hate to be a position player. I mean, you have to do it every single day. That's hard. Pitchers, we only have to do this every five days. So I know the last thing I'd want to do after going 0 for 4 is talk to the media on an everyday basis. That's something that you guys got to take up with them. I don't know. I don't know how to answer that question. But it is what it is. I mean, everybody is grinding and kind of mad and frustrated. We're not doing everything we've been doing up to this point, but we're still in the series. It's not like we're down 3-0. So we're one win away from being tied and going back to Chicago.
We feel good about it. But at the same time, you can't fault those guys. Sometimes you'd rather them not talk sometimes than get up there and tell you what's really on their minds. So if it's an everyday occurrence, then we might have to sit down and have a chat about it. But I don't blame those guys for sometimes taking a break.
Q. How does this ballpark, 95°, 92°, whatever it's going to be, at five o'clock change the way you pitch, if at all?
JON LESTER: It doesn't change the way I pitch. I just go through a couple more hats. That's about it. It's nice and not nice at the same time to pitch in this weather this time of year. You think about playoff baseball, you think about it being cold and having to bundle up. But it's nice coming to Southern California and playing in some warm weather as well. So it doesn't change. It's a big park. I think it plays fair. You still have to make pitches, like we talked about the other day with Wrigley with the wind blowing out. You still have to execute pitches, being down in the zone and all that. So like I said, I'll have to swap hats a few more times, but other than that, it should be fine.
Q. Do you feel like there was a difference of opinion in how well you were pitching in Game 1 between you and Joe?
JON LESTER: I don't know. I knew it was a grind, even though the pitch count wasn't as high as it could have been with how I was throwing the ball. But like I said then, I don't get paid to make decisions. I pitch as long as he tells me to pitch. And as competitors in that particular moment, you're not happy with the decision. That doesn't mean that I'm going to go in there and yell at him or I don't trust him or I don't like him or anything like that. That's just being a competitor. If you wanted to get taken out of the game, then you probably aren't on this stage right now.
Like I said, yeah, there's frustration at the time, but once the game's over and you have time -- well, really once I got into the clubhouse and kind of calmed down a little bit, you understand the move. So there's no ill feelings towards Joe at all.
Q. Do you feel it was more getting a pinch-hitter in there and trying to get some runs in that space?
JON LESTER: Well, I feel the wind's blowing out in a 3-1 game and you've got the pitcher up. So with a guy on second base, with a guy that mis-hits the ball in the air and it's out.
Like I said, at the time you don't want to get taken out and you don't understand that. You're pissed. You're looking up there seeing 77 pitches and you're getting taken out of the game. But like I said, when you go into the clubhouse and you're able to separate from the field, you go, okay, I understand the move. It's National League baseball and that's the way it is. So, like I said, at the time as a competitor, you're frustrated. But that in no way, shape, or form am I ever second-guessing our manager. He makes those decisions, and you live with them. But like I said, I want to compete and I want to keep pitching.
Q. Going back a couple of years ago, what do you remember about the Cubs' sales pitch to you when you were going through the free agency process? And do you remember if there was a moment of clarity on your end that this is where you wanted to pitch the next several years of your career?
JON LESTER: I mean, their sales pitch was pretty impressive, just listening to Theo and those guys and how confident they were in these young guys. I don't really think there's ever a moment of clarity, at least for me, going through that process. It was such a hard process for me just based on where I had been and coming from to basically diving into a team that I think they lost 90 games or whatever the year before, and you have to believe that they're going to turn this around. So it came down to the wire. It came down to us finally saying here we go and diving in, and really believing in what Theo and the front office and Tom and all those guys believed in from the get-go with their young guys. They couldn't have been, you know -- they couldn't have been more right about these guys. These guys are unbelievable kids and unbelievable players. It's just amazing to see how ahead of the curve they are compared to a lot of younger guys.
Q. When a team sees a pitcher for the second time in a matter of days, I would imagine advantage goes to the hitter. Do you alter anything to combat that?
JON LESTER: I think that becomes more of kind of in-game adjustments. You still have a plan and you may have seen something in that game or in the past couple games where it's a little harder for me. We don't have many lefties that have gotten in the game. So you may have picked up on something that you can maybe use the next time around. But really it's a matter of having that game plan and going in and trying to execute that plan. Then if they changed, you have to alter it from there on. So I keep going back to the cat-and-mouse game of pitching. That's really what it come down to. And you execute your pitches. I feel pretty good about it.
Q. Just following up on the previous question about the decision to go to Chicago. You had been in places where you'd won, places where it was successful. What was it like buying into a plan, a vision of something, especially when they're in the 90, 100-loss range at the time?
JON LESTER: I mean, it's tough. You're betting on words, you know, really. We've all seen guys that are uber prospects that have gotten called up and don't turn into anything, and also on the other side. So you just kind of have to believe. I like the fact that I knew Theo from Boston and dealt with him a lot on that. I think that relationship just helped lead to me kind of knowing he wasn't BS'ing me. And you can tell when people are talking about people how they actually feel about them. And these guys really, really believed in these young guys, like I said, not only as players but as people. And I think we're getting away from that a little bit in this game. We're all so number-related as far as spin rates and WARs and all this other stuff that you don't look at the guy and what kind of competitor he is. You look at a Kyle Schwarber, who nobody was going to take him in the first round and we took him, and look what he did for us last year. This guy can still contribute. So I think you still have to pick guys that have hearts and that are competitive and all this other stuff over just pure talent. I think these guys have done a good job of that.
Q. Do you recall a playoff start in the earlier years of your career when the moment rattled you and you had to battle fear or anything like that? Just wonder how far past that you feel now? Are you even more suited to the moment, potentially an elimination game, whether it is or not, now than you were even when you were winning World Series games in Boston?
JON LESTER: I don't ever think you get past -- well, at least for me. I can't speak for everybody. But I'm always nervous. If it's a June start or if it's a World Series start, whatever, I always get the butterflies. I've kind of always had the belief that if those butterflies leave, then it's time for me to go on home.
But I think for me the first moment that I ever got to do this was in '07. They threw me in a World Series start, Game 4, and you have a chance to end it right there and be World Series champions. Leading up to that start was very nerve-racking, and then you go out there and you get on -- at first, I feel like once you get your feet going, then you're into the moment and you're pitching. But leading up to that first pitch and that first out was a lot of nerves. I think you learn how to use those to your advantage as you get older. As you get older, your velocity goes down. So it's nice to get a little adrenaline sometimes to get a few ticks on your fastball.
I think you just learn. You learn. I think sometimes it's good to be naive and stupid and have no idea what that moment is like. And just go out there and, I've said it before, pitch dumb, play dumb. Have no idea what this moment means. Just go out and play. And I think sometimes that helps. Sometimes we can be -- talking about numbers, we can be overloaded with information to where we're thinking about the wrong things instead of just enjoying the moment and playing.
Q. I'm curious as a fellow Big League pitcher, fellow left-hander, you're sitting in the dugout or standing in the dugout last night watching Rich Hill thumb curveball after curveball after curveball. What are you thinking about there? Are you amazed? Are you amused? Are you like, wow, that's a lot of curveballs? What's going through your head just strategically and, wow, lot of curveballs?
JON LESTER: Yeah, just knowing Rich, it's kind of amusing. Played with him in Boston for a little bit. For me, it's unbelievable that you can continually do that and it's that good of a pitch that guys can't hit it. He could almost stand out there and tell them it's coming and guys still can't hit it.
The arm angles and the funky delivery and the jumping around and the stomping around and yelling and all that stuff, I love it. It's Rich. He's a competitor. He wants to win. The thing that I think he's evolved from, especially as a starter now, he has to throw his fastball. As a reliever, he didn't really have to do that. So just picking his spots. As a pitcher you're watching and like, man, if he threw a heater right here, he's got this guy locked up. Sure enough, boom. Locked up, walking back to the dugout. So it's just anybody. I mean, you've got Jansen on the other side, too, that just throws the cutter. Throws that rise cutter that guys continually swing through. Mariano Rivera did it for how long. So for me, the guys that do that just shows how special that pitch is and how good that they're able to do that. It's fun to watch sometimes, unless you're losing in the playoffs. Then it's not so fun.
Q. Getting back to your career development. What things have you learned from John Lackey over the years?
JON LESTER: How much time do you got? I mean, it's been a long process. There was guys before him that kind of got me to the point where I was there, and then he kind of led me from there. I think 2010 was our first year together. I think for me, I've learned more off-the-field stuff or clubhouse stuff than on the field. Just being a pro in the clubhouse as far as taking care of guys, making sure the young guys feel welcome, how to handle young guys, how to be a leader, how to take the ball in moments like tonight. Just stuff like that has kind of accumulated over the years. He's not really a vocal guy. He doesn't sit down and preach to you and tell you need to do this, this, and this. But just watching him and talking to him over the years, you pick up on a lot of things about, like I said, just the everyday aspect of being a pro. Like I said, man, he's done a lot of things that not a lot of people know about except for the people that he took care of, and I think that's why he's very, very well respected in clubhouses and around this league. He's a lot to take in on the mound. He's a competitor. He wants to compete. He wants to win. And he'll do anything he can to make sure that his teammates know that he's out there giving it his all. You know, there's a lot that I owe him for where I'm at in my career.
Q. To follow on that, what you described that he did for you in clubhouse stuff, culture stuff, do you guys have anything to offer the younger position players who are struggling to hit right now? I mean, you're obviously not hitters, but just as older guys, good teammates, seeing more stuff?
JON LESTER: Have you seen my batting average? I've got nothing. I think for me, it just goes back to the every day being a pro type thing. You know, we've done a pretty good job of that throughout the year. Obviously now's a different time. But of showing up. Today's a new day. Yesterday, whatever, move on. We don't really care what we did. Let's move on and try to win today. I think that's all you can really do, especially as a hitter, man. You're grinding every day. You get four at-bats every day, and a lot of times those don't go well, especially in the playoffs with such good pitching that we've been facing. Obviously tonight's not going to get any easier with their guy that they've got going. You've just got to keep grinding. I mean, that's all we try to do as pitchers. We have a game plan. We prepare. We go out there and more times than not you're out there grinding along. You have a few starts where you can just throw your hat out there and you're going to win that game no matter what. That's a handful of starts through the year. So the rest of them you're trying to figure out a way to manage the lineup and go through. So I feel like our hitters have done a pretty good job of that. And obviously in the postseason everything gets magnified, so it's a little bit tougher. But those guys will grind out tonight and we'll see what happens at the end.
Q. You mentioned Kyle Schwarber. You guys won 103 games without him or almost 103 without him during the regular season. But at this time of the year, is it hard not to miss him?
JON LESTER: Oh, I mean, we miss him all year. Even for a young guy, saying about his heart and competitiveness and his desire to play, you know, he's there every day at the field working his butt off. You see him coming in from the weight room and he's drenched and we know how hard he's working to try to get back to help us. But when you go on the road, you miss him. You miss seeing that. I feel like, I guess, because we kind of go about our business the same way, he's a fairly quiet guy, and he just goes about his business. He doesn't look for any attention. You turn around and he's drenched and soaking wet in sweat and just gone through a workout where there's a very slim chance he could be playing for us. So I think other guys see that and they respect that. When they're kind of struggling a little bit, I think it uplifts them to get through their day.
I mean, I can only imagine what our offense would have been like this year. He definitely would have helped in the situation now. But this is the hand we're dealt, and we've got to figure out a way to win and grind out at-bats and grind out pitches and give our team a chance.
Q. What is your opinion of Julio Urías? What do you know about him? And could you talk a little bit about such a young pitcher pitching on this stage? And does he remind you a little bit of Jon Lester?
JON LESTER: No, he's way better than I was at that age. To be 20, I mean, I couldn't imagine pitching on this stage at 20. I just know where I was at mentally, physically, all that stuff. To watch him kind of evolve. He came up, and we were talking about the uber prospects and stuff, and this guy was the number one of everything as far as pitchers. He struggled at first, which we all have. We've all struggled. We still struggle as we get older. But to see him evolve as a pitcher, you know, you see him get better and better each time he takes the ball. I'm interested to see how he handles tonight just being so young. But, yeah, he's such a good talent. He's only going to help that rotation obviously for many years to come. He'll only continue to get better. So that's scary for the rest of the league and for us, but it's always nice to see a good lefty out on the mound pitching.