Pitcher Jon Lester has struggled with something that baseball players around the world fear almost as much as stepping on the the foul line, or striking out looking: the yips.
For those unfamiliar with the term, getting the “yips” means a player suddenly finds himself unable to accomplish the simple task he’s been executing since a child, such as throwing the ball to first base. It’s a psychological challenge that can affect everyone who steps on the field, and cause even the toughest of players to crack.
For pitchers, a bad case of the yips can be career altering. That’s why Jon Lester has been taking time during this spring training season to go back to the basics. Since signing with the Cubs last year, it’s no secret that his ability to field simple bunts, or even pickoff the runner on first has been shaky.
“This is obviously something I can’t run from,” Lester said. “This is not something you can hide.”
Instead of ignoring the problem and hoping it’ll blow over, Joe Madden, the Cubbies’ manager, is tackling it head on.
“You don’t give up on it. You talk about it. You attack those particular items. You avoid avoidance,” he stated in an interview after watching Lester pitch earlier this week.
Previously, Lester’s pitching has been fine, with a career 3.55 ERA. But with this notable case of the yips, it’s questionable if he’ll be able to help the Cubs or harm them. Madden is hopeful, and the good thing about baseball is that you’re never alone on the field. Throughout the rest of the spring training games, all eyes are on Lester’s arm, with hope that the yips will become a story of his past.