After giving up a double on his 40th pitch of the 2nd inning today, Jon Lester signaled for someone in the dugout to come out. That is never a good sign.
Shortly thereafter, Lester left the game with Joe Maddon and the team’s trainer, and the official word was left lat tightness – that’s the large muscle area at sort of the left middle of your back. Lester’s velocity was definitely down a couple clicks today across the board.
“When a pitcher of his stature is potentially injured, of course, you’re concerned,” Maddon said after the game, per Cubs.com. “I don’t want to jump to conclusions either. Let’s go through the proper procedures, let the doctor see him and go from there. Right now, I’m not going to jump to any negative conclusions.”
Those procedures, for now, involve further examination by the team’s orthopedic specialist, and it’s possible he’ll also receive an MRI. Hopefully the initial examination doesn’t yield cause for that, but since this is clearly not just a “he had a really long inning, felt some tightness, but he’ll be fine” situation, it seems highly likely that a disabled list stint is coming in any case.
The Sun-Times reports that is the plan, with an arm coming up from AAA Iowa to help out the bullpen in the interim. We’ll see if that goes through tomorrow.
If Lester’s injury is not severe, the new 10-day disabled list means that Lester could come back having missed only one start. The Sun-Times piece goes through something of an unnerving list of recent lat strains and the time pitchers missed, but just as I’d caution you against going down the WebMD hole when your kid has a cough, I’d say let’s wait to hear the results of the examination. If it turns out that Lester does, in fact, have a strain, then yes, he’ll probably miss multiple weeks.
For what it’s worth, Lester was once placed on the disabled list back in 2011 with the Red Sox with a lat strain, and he went about three weeks between starts.
The Cubs are in a tough spot having not locked up the NL Central – like, at all – so they don’t have the luxury of saying, “eh, let’s just DL him for a month and then ramp him up for the playoffs.” The Cubs may very well need Lester to secure that playoff spot. But if he’s not healthy and effective, well, then it won’t much help anyway.
As I said, I’ll wait for the results from the further examination and/or any official roster move tomorrow before going too far down this road. With Mike Montgomery having pitched a little over four innings today (highly effectively, too), he would be the guy to slide into Lester’s spot if need be.