CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound for Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the New York Mets, and Javier Baez will start at shortstop after Addison Russell was shelved by a left hamstring injury.
Russell got hurt while legging out a triple in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals. He said he felt the hamstring grab while he was rounding second, and manager Joe Maddon said the rookie had a moderate strain.
"Addy right now will not participate in this next round," Maddon said Thursday. "We're not going to utilize him. Continue to work on him. Hopefully if everything plays properly and we have another opportunity to play in another round he might be available at that time, but for sure not this one."
Maddon said they haven't made a decision on Russell's replacement for the NLCS roster, which must be submitted by Saturday morning. Reliever Jason Motte, who has been out with a right shoulder strain, is a possibility for this round, and Maddon said he likely will use four starters in the best-of-seven series.
The Cubs worked out for about two hours Thursday, with their young sluggers putting on another show during batting practice. But there was nothing like the drive Kyle Schwarber hit during the final game against St. Louis, a massive solo shot that settled on top of the scoreboard in right field.
The team authenticated the ball, and then placed a case over it. The plan is to leave the ball there for at least the rest of the playoffs.
"It's pretty cool that it'll stay out there throughout this postseason," Schwarber said. "Just a good honor. You know, it's, I just look at it as another home run."
Baez, another one of those promising young hitters, replaced Russell in the NLDS, and hit a three-run homer in Chicago's series-ending 6-4 victory in Game 4. The 22-year-old slugger has big-time power, but he has struck out a lot during his brief time in the majors.
"Addison has played enough here this year to know that he belongs here and he can do this. I want to believe that Javy is arriving at that same point," Maddon said. "I think to hit a three-run homer in a playoff game like that against one of the best pitchers in the National League should boost your confidence."
After Lester pitches in the opener Saturday night, Jake Arrieta will go in Game 2. Lester is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 15 career postseason games, including 13 starts.
Arrieta threw a five-hit shutout in the wild-card game at Pittsburgh but had his worst start in months when he allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings in Game 3 against the Cardinals. Lester hasn't pitched since the NLDS opener last Friday.
"It's been a while since Jon's been out there, so it's good for him to get out there Game 1," Arrieta said, "and I'll be ready for Game 2."
Arrieta, one of the favorites for the NL Cy Young Award, is up to 243 2-3 innings this year, easily cruising past his previous career high of 156 2-3 innings from last year. The right-hander threw a side session Thursday and said he is fine.
"I think the playoff atmosphere can drain you of energy mentally and you spend a lot of brain power throughout the day contemplating things, thinking about different scenarios and it can be taxing, and sometimes that'll translate into some physical fatigue," he said.
"But I think being able to understand how to handle these playoff sort of atmospheres and situations, especially leading into the game, is going to do me a lot more good going into this series."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap