'I didn't think 6 years would go this fast': Lester might have made his last start at Wrigley
Jon Lester was quiet and noticeably downcast as he talked about Wednesday's start on the postgame Zoom call with reporters.
Then he revealed the reason why: It might have been his last start at Wrigley Field.
Technically, Lester has one more year left on his contract, but it's a team option at $25 million. The Cubs are likely to pass at that price.
"Obviously, we don't know what the future holds. A lot of emotions going into tonight," Lester said. "Maybe I was trying a little bit too hard. Trying to go out and maybe be a little bit too perfect. I don't know."
Lester, 36, pitched 5 innings and wasn't bad, allowing 2 runs and 4 hits. Cleveland was making good contact, though, and with a rested bullpen and day off Thursday, manager David Ross decided to end Lester's night at 62 pitches. The Cubs won 3-2 in 10 innings.
From a monetary standpoint, Lester has nothing to complain about, which he acknowledged. But the idea of ending his Cubs career with no fans at Wrigley Field was tough to swallow.
"I think that's probably the most frustrating part for me," he said. "Going back to '14, I really didn't get to walk off the field like I wanted to at Fenway. Obviously tonight didn't go quite the way I wanted to
"An empty stadium, not really how I envisioned possibly my last start here. I didn't think six years would go this fast."
Lester spent his first nine years in the majors with the Boston Red Sox. That run ended with a midseason trade to Oakland on July 31, 2014.
It is possible Lester could get another start at Wrigley, of course. The Cubs would need to host a first-round playoff series and likely go to a third game, after Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks start Games 1 and 2. After that, the NL playoffs will move to Texas.
The trade to Oakland set the stage for Lester to join the Cubs as a free agent in 2015. A two-time World Series champ in Boston, Lester is often credited for bolstering the Cubs' two-year ascent to becoming champions. He's the reason Ross joined the Cubs at the same time.
"Him out there on the mound battling his butt off, doing that for this city, changing the culture," teammate Jason Heyward said. "Taking a leap of faith that they were going to do what they said they were going to do and put the pieces around him, says a lot about a man trusting in himself and trusting in an organization."
Heyward was asked if the Cubs headed into Wednesday's game aware that it could be Lester's last Wrigley regular-season appearance.
"You just have to, have to, absolutely have to acknowledge that it could be," Heyward said. "He's earned that. It really is unfortunate that we don't have fans here this year to help be a part of that.
"This is something he earned. This dude's been a rock here. We've got to shown him the love, show him the respect and we hope we can do a lot more for him here in the near future."