Tag Archives: John Lackey

Cubs’ Joe Maddon Savors His Time With John Lackey

By Chris Emma— CHICAGO (CBS) – Long before Joe Maddon saw John Lackey as a gutsy veteran, he got to know a young pitcher establishing himself in his big league career. Maddon was there for the baseball upbringing of a 23-year-old Lackey back in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels. As the team’s bench coach, Maddon could already see the fiery demeanor that would come to define Lackey’s 16-year career and also came to know the man behind the intense scowl. On Thursday night, the Cubs’ season ended with an 11-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 5 the National League Championship Series. Lackey entered in the fourth inning of a 7-0 game and pitched two innings of relief before walking off the mound for what may be the final time in his big league career. Lackey turns 39 on Monday and just completed the final year of his contract with the Cubs. Maddon knows retirement is certainly possible for Lackey, so he took a trip down memory lane to 2002 with those World Series champion Angels. “John and I go way back,” Maddon began. “John and I were together with the Angels in the 2002 World Series team. At that time I was the bench coach. The bench coach has more liberties as opposed to the manager. So I used to be able to go out drinking with the boys a little bit back then. So John and (Brendan) Donnelly and (Ben) Weber, and all those guys, Adam Kennedy, great guys. I got to know them really well. “So it’s really special for me with John. I think that might be it — I’m not a hundred percent sure he’s not coming back next year. But the competitive component, what you see when he’s pitching right now, it’s nothing new. When he gets upset or the histrionics or gesticulations or whatever, that’s John. But he’s always been that dude. And if you’re his teammate, you absolutely love him. He’s got the biggest heart in the world.” Lackey is a three-time World Series champion with a career 188-147 record and 3.92 ERA. His was a big-game performer in the playoffs, registering a 3.36 ERA in 28 playoff appearances, including 23 starts. “Hopefully it’s not (the end of his career), but if it is, having that chance to be with him in that moment is pretty special for me,” Maddon said. “Maybe not special for him, but special for me.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Cubs Not Ready To Name Starter For NLCS Game 1

(CBS) Upon arrival in Los Angeles on Friday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wasn’t ready to name a starter for Game 1 of the Nationals League Championship Series against the Dodgers on Saturday. The Cubs’ decision is between left-hander Jose Quintana and right-hander John Lackey, Maddon confirmed, though after a long day of travel, no choice was made. Quintana threw 12 pitches of relief during the seventh inning of a 9-8 victory against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Thursday in Washington. He last started Monday, a 2-1 Cubs win in Game 3 in which he went 5 2/3 innings. Lackey was in the bullpen in the NLDS but wasn’t used. Right-hander Jake Arrieta started in Wednesday’s rescheduled Game 4 at Wrigley Field, and left-hander Jon Lester pitched an extended appearance in relief. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks started in Game 5, which has left Maddon with the options of Quintana (7-3, 3.74 ERA with the Cubs in the regular season) or Lackey (12-12, 4.59). Maddon did say that Lester could be in line to start Game 2 on Sunday. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1, while Los Angeles follows with left-hander Rich Hill in Game 2, right-hander Yu Darvish in Game 3 and left-hander Alex Wood in Game 4. The Cubs’ decision for a Game 1 starter will be finalized between Maddon and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein later Friday. First pitch between the Cubs and Dodgers comes Saturday at 7:08 p.m. CT from Los Angeles.

Jose Quintana, John Lackey Are Cubs’ Candidates To Start NLCS Game 1

(CBS) To outlast the Nationals in a tense National League Division Series that went the distance, the Cubs had to use their top four starting pitchers over the course of grueling games Wednesday and Thursday. So after a thrilling, nail-biting 9-8 win in Game 5, the Cubs weren’t sure who they’d turn to against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday evening. The Cubs started right-hander Jake Arrieta in Game 4 on Wednesday and then used left-hander Jon Lester for 3 2/3 innings in relief. In Game 5, right-hander Kyle Hendricks lasted four innings. Left-hander Jose Quintana came on in relief and got two outs, throwing 12 pitches. That left a long plane ride across to country for the Cubs to decide whether to turn to Quintana or No. 5 starter John Lackey, who was on the NLDS roster but didn’t make an appearance. “We haven’t even talked about that yet,” manager Joe Maddon said, adding Lackey is “definitely in the mix, no question.” Quintana threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in Game 3 of the NLDS before he brief scoreless relief outing. Amid a postgame celebration after Game 5, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein brought up Quintana’s name when asked who would start. “We’ll talk to Q,” Epstein said. “He’s a candidate. It wasn’t much more than a side (session) today. We’ll see. If he’s feeling good, he might be a candidate. We’ll figure it out on the plane before we start drinking.”

Cubs Showcase John Lackey Tribute T-Shirts: ‘I’m Always One Out Closer To The Beer’

(CBS) A day after blowing a late lead in a 6-3 loss to the Nationals that evened the National League Division Series at 1-1, the Cubs showed little sign of worry during a workout at Wrigley Field on Sunday. They took batting practice while also gathering for a late-morning brunch while NFL games played on the Jumbotron. All they hung out, some Cubs also sported their newest custom T-shirts, which honored veteran right-hander John Lackey and his many quirks and gruff quotes. Chief among the sayings on the T-shirt was the phrase “I’m always one out closer to the beer,” which Lackey said after a strong outing that led the Cubs to a win in the division clincher in the final week of the regular season. Two more famous quotes of Lackey’s on the T-shirt were “Big league wins don’t grow on trees” and “Didn’t come here for a haircut.” Signs point to the 38-year-old Lackey retiring at season’s end. After his final regular-season start, good friend Jon Lester gathered the Cubs and took a minute to hold an emotional tribute for Lackey, who hasn’t confirmed anything yet. Lackey is on the Cubs’ roster for the NLDS but is only expected to pitch if a long reliever is needed.

Cubs Include Lackey, Martin On NLDS Roster But Leave Rondon Off It

(CBS) The Cubs unveiled their 25-man roster for the National League Divisional Series with one main surprise. Chicago included outfielder Leonys Martin on the roster but left reliever Hector Rondon off of it. As many expected, right-hander John Lackey is also on the roster and will be used out of the bullpen if needed. Martin will serve as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. He hit just .172 this season. The thought process of including Martin was to potentially manufacture a run on the basepaths against a stout Nationals pitching staff that’s led by aces Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. Rondon had a 4.24 ERA for the season but had been strong of late, recording 10 straight scoreless appearances. The Cubs have two catchers in Willson Contreras and Alex Avila, meaning Kyle Schwarber would serve as the emergency catcher if needed. The Cubs took 11 pitchers and 14 position players. So they’ll have six position players available off the bench. As expected, reliever Justin Grimm was left off the NLDS roster. Game 1 between the Cubs and Nationals is Friday evening in Washington D.C. The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks opposes the Nationals’ Strasburg. First pitch is at 6:31 p.m. and can be heard on 670 The Score, which begins its pregame coverage at 5:30 p.m. Pitchers
Kyle Hendricks
Jon Lester
Jose Quintana
Jake Arrieta
John Lackey
Mike Montgomery
Justin Wilson
Brian Duensing
Pedro Strop
Carl Edwards Jr.
Wade Davis Position players
Willson Contreras
Anthony Rizzo
Javier Baez
Addison Russell
Kris Bryant
Kyle Schwarber
Jon Jay
Jason Heyward
Ben Zobrist
Ian Happ
Albert Almora Jr.
Alex Avila
Tommy La Stella
Leonys Martin

Levine: John Lackey Likely To Be In Cubs’ Bullpen For Playoffs

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs right-hander John Lackey has typically been a man of few words and big action. On Sunday, the spotlight shifted back to him, as Lackey came out of the bullpen for the first time this season as the team prepares for the playoffs. In a 3-1 loss to the Reds at Wrigley Field in the regular-season finale, Lackey handled the fourth inning for the Cubs in relief of left-hander Mike Montgomery. He allowed one run on two hits and struck out two in his lone inning. It was the first time since 2004, when he was with the Angels, that Lackey pitched out of the bullpen in the regular season. He also pitched out of the bullpen for the Red Sox in the 2013 postseason. With several rotation questions as the ready for the Nationals in the National League Division Series, the Cubs are looking to figure out how Lackey can best help them. “We wanted to give him a test out of the bullpen and see what it looked like,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We wanted to see how he felt. He gave up a run, but I thought he had a really good slider coming out of the pen. His velocity was normal. He looked pretty good. It is an option.” Lackey’s opinion on the matter isn’t known. When approach by media members at his locker postgame, Lackey declined an interview and left for another area of the clubhouse. It’s likely the 38-year-old Lackey will accept his assignment to the bullpen and take the ball if called upon in relief. “Is it amenable or amenable?” Maddon said in changing the pronunciation of the word to describe Lackey’s approval of the role. “It is one of those two.” A long-man role for Lackey would be a fallback measure for the Cubs in case a starter gets hit hard early or injured. Maddon will reveal his rotation sometime before a workout in Washington D.C. on Thursday. Game 1 is Friday night. Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Levine: Cubs Could Include All 5 Starters On NLDS Roster

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s rare to see five starting pitchers included on a team’s 25-man roster for a playoff series, but the Cubs find themselves in a unique situation that might necessitate it. With the playoffs starting next week, the Cubs’ top two pitchers aren’t anywhere near top form. Left-hander Jon Lester hit the disabled list in mid-August with shoulder fatigue and has struggled for much of the second half. Right-hander Jake Arrieta strained his right hamstring in early September and has in his second start since returning looked tentative in only going three innings in a loss Tuesday. Arrieta’s schedule start Sunday has been cancelled in favor of a simulated game and more rest. Because of that, the Cubs are considering including all five of their rotation members — specifically No. 5 starter John Lackey — on the National League Division Series roster. Normally, teams include four starters. “It is possible,” manager Joe Maddon said Friday. “It is definitely possible to see all of them involved. Of course, somebody would have to be a part of the bullpen, but it is possible.” Maddon, pitching coach Chris Bosio and executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will meet Monday to determine a rotation configuration. The smart money is on right-hander Kyle Hendricks starting Game 1 against the Nationals next Friday and left-hander Jose Quintana following in Game 2. That would buck conventional wisdom, which would have veterans and big-game performers in Lester and Arrieta getting the ball early in the series. This doesn’t seem like that kind of year, though. Lester and Arrieta have issues to work through and haven’t proved to be as reliable as Hendricks and Quintana lately. And this is no time for sentimentality. Hendricks has a 2.19 ERA in the second half of the season, while Quintana had a 1.63 ERA in September before his start against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. Lackey will also have a decent shot of being on the NLDS roster. The Cubs were 12-2 in his last 14 starts of the regular season, and he could come out of the bullpen as a long reliever — and also serve as insurance should Arrieta have a setback for any reason. Still, there’s some doubt surrounding the effectiveness of Lackey coming out of the bullpen and being fully warmed up. After Maddon utilized Lackey out of the bullpen in the 2016 season, Lackey hit the DL with a sore shoulder. Left-hander Mike Montgomery was a lifesaver for the Cubs in the 2016 playoffs, and he’ll be ready for any role this October. “I have not thrown two consecutive days very often this season,” Montgomery said. “I will be ready for whatever they ask me to do. My arm feels fine.” Wade Davis, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Brian Duensing and Montgomery are locks to be in the Cubs bullpen. Lefty reliever Justin Wilson is on the bubble but will be in if the Cubs want three left-handers. If Lackey is included, righty reliever Justin Grimm would most likely be the odd man out. If Arrieta is healthy, the rotation could look like this, in order; Hendricks, Quintana, Arrieta and then Lester. That would put Hendricks in line to start a win-or-go-home Game 5 with Lackey on standby status for the whole series. Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Levine: If That Was His Last Start, John Lackey Went Out In His Unique Style

By Bruce Levine–  (CBS) It appeared the cowboy might ride off into the sunset without the chance to be a postseason difference-maker, but after Cubs right-hander John Lackey’s instrumental role in an NL Central-clinching performance Wednesday night, that line of thinking may be on the backburner. The 38-year-old Lackey fired six innings of one-run ball in his team’s 5-1 win against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, a victory that sealed the division crown and sent the Cubs to the postseason for the third straight year. They’ll face the Nationals in the National League Division Series starting Oct. 6. With his quality performance, Lackey may have gone from playoff afterthought to earning a role — if not as a rotation member, then from out of the bullpen. All season long, Lackey declined to reveal what his plans were beyond this season as retirement talk swirled around him. Left-hander Jon Lester, one of Lackey’s good friends, hinted at that being Lackey’s path amid a raucous postgame locker room scene Wednesday night. “Here is to one hell of a career,” Lester said in taking a moment to give Lackey a shoutout. The Cubs then saluted Lackey by dousing him in beer and champagne. “There were a lot of things to think about tonight,” Lackey said later, another nod to Lester confirming that this was his last regular-season start. While his 4.56 ERA for the season was ordinary, Lackey provided the Cubs what they needed most of the time: a chance to win. They did that often when he took the mound in the past three months, going 12-2 in the last 14 games he started. Lackey was in his best form in the clincher, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out three and being in command. The performance came after he’d failed to get out of the fifth inning of his past two starts, though one of those was due to an ejection. For at least this night, Lackey was just relishing the scene. “Every one of these is special,” Lackey said Wednesday night. “I told these young kids not to take any of these for granted. If you think this is something easy, it is time for you to go home.” Depending on what the Cubs want to do with their playoff roster, it’s possible Wednesday marked the final pitch Lackey will throw in his career. If so, he’ll leave a lasting legacy of fire, intensity, durability and big-game performances in a career that dates back to 2002 and includes three championships. The Cubs targeted Lackey in free agency ahead of the 2016 season as part of their plan to add the final veteran pieces for a championship run. Lackey came to Chicago at the same time Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist did, and they accomplished their goal with a title in 2016, fulfilling a mantra of Lackey’s. “I didn’t come here for a haircut,” Lackey famously said during the 2016 regular season. “I came here for jewelry.” With Lester and right-hander Jake Arrieta working back from injuries and having some rough September outings, could Lackey still be on the Cubs’ 25-man roster for the NLDS? Only the front office and manager Joe Maddon know that answer, which we’ll find out next week. Whether he does or not, the Cubs are thankful for what the gritty Lackey has meant to them. “He is all about winning,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said earlier this season. It seems likely Lackey will retire at season’s end. If he does, the Cubs will be losing some of their edge. Lackey was reliable in Chicago, making 59 starts in the past two seasons. If Wednesday was his final one, we’ll remember that it came in typical Lackey style, as he was still fuming later with Maddon’s decision to remove him after six strong innings. “There was no way I should have been taken out of that game,” an irritated Lackey told reporters amid a celebratory, beer-chugging, champagne-spraying postgame atmosphere. “I was dealing tonight.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Levine: Cubs Show Mettle In Rallying For Big Win After Ejections

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — In a close game with playoff race ramifications, the Cubs lost out on two counts and won on a much more important level. After Cubs right-hander John Lackey was robbed of a key strike three call by home plate umpire Jordan Baker in the fifth inning, he and catcher Willson Contreras were ejected one pitch later. How the Cubs responded in the 8-2 win against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon may be more of an indication of the championship-caliber players who make up the team. Baker missed a 2-2 pitch that Lackey threw over the plate with Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez took with two runners on, two outs and the game tied at 1-1. After Lackey let Baker know about that called ball, he surrendered an RBI single that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. At that point, Lackey and Contreras lost their cool with Baker and were thrown out after animated discussions. So how’d the Cubs respond? They plated six runs in the bottom of the sixth to take full control and stretched their NL Central lead to 3.5 games over the Brewers and four games over the Cardinals. “It is crazy how the game can change like that”,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, who had three hits, including his 27th homers. “I was glad we were able to erase that and move on. I think it was a nice little spark for us. That turned into some energy that we all needed.” The Cubs showed patience and composure in their seven-run rally in the sixth inning that chased Martinez. Alex Avila tied it with an RBI single, while Jon Jay gave the Cubs the lead for good with an RBI single of his own. “It does take a special group to do that,” outfielder Jason Heyward said. “I am not patting ourselves on the back, but you have to have some experience to deal with that kind of moment. You have two good teams playing good baseball right now, and that game could have gone different ways. That was a big moment in the game, and we could have said whatever.” The win was the Cubs’ first over an above-.500 team since Aug. 13. Since that time, they’d only faced one such foe, getting swept by the Brewers. “We have a good energy in the dugout right now”,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There is a really good vibe. Our hitters coming off of the Mets series continue to grind out really good at-bats. Up and down, I felt we were really engaged in today’s game.” Several hours after his ejection, Lackey expressed no regret over his actions. He was happy his offense picked him, and continuing that solid plate approach is the Cubs’ goal. “To have some really good at-bats against what I consider one of the best pitchers in the league says a lot about this team,” Bryant said. “It tells you about the guys on the team and how good we really are.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Happy His Cubs Rallied, John Lackey Has No Regrets After Ejection

By Chris Emma— CHICAGO (CBS) – Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried to take the heat off home plate umpire Jordan Baker for a missed strike call that led to fireworks and ejections in Chicago’s 8-2 win against St. Louis at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. But right-hander John Lackey wasn’t willing to excuse the man who ejected him and catcher Willson Contreras during the fifth inning. After Maddon claimed a cross-up in signals led to Contreras catching a 2-2 breaking ball low, Lackey quickly disagreed. With the scored tied 1-1, Cardinals runners at first and second base with two outs and pitcher Carlos Martinez batting, Lackey felt he had strike three to end the fifth, a belief that replays supported. Instead, it was called ball three, and after some the initial complaints, Martinez ripped a 3-2 pitch to right-center field for an RBI single. After arguing the previous pitch, Lackey was ejected shortly after he screamed at Baker while sprinting to back up home plate. “Big spot in a huge game and he missed the pitch,” Lackey said. “He had no argument back. He was just trying to say, ‘That’s enough.’ Usually, when they do that, they know they missed it. “(Martinez) almost walked to the grass. He knew he was out. “I went back to home plate and told (Baker), ‘You can’t miss that pitch at this point in this game,’ and he threw me out of the game kind of half-heartedly because he knew he missed it.”

Contreras was ejected shortly after Lackey as he threw his mask down to the dirt. It bounced off the ankles of Baker, a move that could lead to a suspension. “Those things happen,” Contreras said. “First of all, I didn’t mean to hit the umpire or to hit anybody. I think (Lackey) made a good pitch, even though we got crossed up. I think I did a pretty good job holding the baseball. I just got fired up. I couldn’t control my emotions. “If I have to apologize, I’ll apologize to the umpire because I didn’t mean to hit anybody and didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” Maddon wasn’t sure after the game if Contreras would be suspended. He will wait for the league to review the situation. The single by Martinez gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Cubs reliever Justin Wilson would enter in place of Lackey, and Alex Avila took over behind the plate for Contreras. The Cubs bullpen responded with 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. The Cubs would rally back with seven runs in the sixth inning and never looked back. Carl Edwards Jr. earned the victory, while Lackey took the no-decision and also no regrets home after his actions. “None, really,” he replied. “It was a pretty big spot right there. He cost me a big league win. Those don’t grow on trees.” Maddon knows the fiery Lackey well enough to realize he wasn’t going to hold back after getting a strikeout — and a potential victory — taken away. “Why would I think he’s going to change in that particular moment? God bless him,” Maddon said. “It’s who Johnny is. I never want him to change. He’s not going to change, so why even expect that? It happened, he reacted and the rest of the team came together.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.