Before you freak: don’t.
Yes, the Chicago Cubs are moving Jon Lester’s and Jake Arrieta’s starts later this week* from normal Cactus League action to minor league games on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively, but it not for any kind of unnerving readiness or health-related reason.
(1) Having the ability to stretch guys out more comfortably (in a minor league spring game, you can pretty much do whatever you want, whereas Cactus League games have, like, rules),
(3) “Shielding” the pitcher from being seen too much by other teams.
Maddon explicitly ruled out the Lester move having anything to do with his fielding troubles in his last start (i.e., he’s not heading to a minor league game so he can work on throwing to bases). It’s just a matter of putting him in a game where he can stretch out more comfortably, according to Maddon.
With so many pitchers in camp looking to get innings (even if, right now, competition for a roster spot seems limited to the very back of the bullpen), moving the six or so innings that would have been taking up by Lester and Arrieta to a minor league game is not a bad thing, either.
*Arrieta will start in the Cactus League today, as scheduled. It’s his next start, on Saturday, that is being moved.