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Admitting there will be ’emotions involved,’ Washington Nationals pitcher Jon Lester enthused to start in former home, Wrigley Field

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Returning to Wrigley Field on Monday for the first time since departing the Chicago Cubs as a free agent, Washington Nationals starter Jon Lester is over any hard feelings he had upon leaving.

Lester, 37, was never offered much in the way of a new contract with the Cubs before signing a 1-year, $5 million deal with Washington.

“It’s natural,” Lester said. “I had to get over some stuff leaving Boston. Chicago was my home for six years. We have a house there. My kids grew up there. You invest in a city, you invest in that place that you’re working. Yeah, there’s emotions involved.”

Lester is often cited as arguably the best free-agent signing in franchise history, but nostalgia couldn’t keep him a Cub. After the team declined a $25 million team option for 2021, the 16-year veteran sat and waited for a new offer that never materialized. Worried about how late it was getting in the offseason, Lester signed with the Nationals.

“The hard part of this game is the business side and you have to separate your heart and business,” Lester said. “Sometimes that can be difficult. It’s only natural to go through a phase where you question certain things, but once you separate that and realize it’s a business … it is what it is.”

Lester is happy to be pitching on Monday, in the opener of a four-game series. He can get it over with and then relax and visit with friends with whom he won a World Series in 2016, breaking a 108-year championship drought for the franchise. But he’s most excited to see a fan base he never got to say goodbye to last season due to COVID-19 protocols.

“I look forward to it,” Lester said. “I’m glad fans are in the stands. It’ll be nice to see the faces in the stands and get back to normalcy there.”

As for facing his former teammates, the trash-talking began in spring training as Lester is most excited about staring down first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The two share a bond; both were drafted by the Boston Red Sox and both beat cancer while with that organization.

“That will probably be the matchup that will stand out the most to me,” Lester said. “I might have to invent something out there. I’m pretty much inventing stuff as I go as it is. Maybe throw a knuckleball or two or mix something in like that.”

Lester won 77 games for the Cubs, including Game 5 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians, then came on in relief in Game 7, which the Cubs won in 10 innings. It cemented his legacy in Chicago.

He was asked what it means to be considered such a great free-agent signing.

“It’s a huge compliment,” Lester said. “I don’t know if it’s true. It’s flattering.”

Lester will see his former catcher in the Cubs’ dugout: David Ross is now the manager of his former team. The two are close friends.

“The guy is super special to me,” Ross said. “I hope the fans give him the welcome back he deserves. He means a lot to this organization. I think fans recognize that. Cubs nation that I know will be super appreciative and give him the love that he needs.”

Besides pitching against the Cubs, Lester’s biggest concern is finding where he needs to go when he gets to Wrigley Field.

“The biggest thing for me is making sure I walk into the right dugout,” he said.

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White Sox rookie Seby Zavala first in MLB history to hit his first three career home runs in same game

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CHICAGO — White Sox rookie Seby Zavala hit the first three home runs of his career, including a grand slam, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to beat Chicago 12-11 on Saturday night.

Zavala became the first player in big league history to hit his first three career home runs in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The 27-year-old catcher played his 18th game in the majors — he was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on July 6 to replace the injured Yasmani Grandal.

Batting ninth, Zavala hit a solo homer in the third off Triston McKenzie. Zavala connected for a grand slam off McKenize in the fourth for a 6-1 lead and a solo drive against Bryan Shaw in the seventh.

With a chance to become the 19th player to hit a record-tying four homers in a game, Zavala singled in the eighth and finished with six RBIs.

Zavala — who will turn 28 on Aug. 28 — played at San Diego State, finishing up with the Aztecs in 2015. Later that year, he was a 12th-round selection by Chicago in the June entry draft. He hit 20 home runs at Triple A Charlotte in 2019.

His magic wasn’t enough to outpace the Indians on this night, however, as Austin Hedges, Owen Miller and Amed Rosario homered to help Cleveland overcome a five-run deficit.

The Indians totaled nine runs in three straight innings to take the lead. Justin Garza (1-0) threw two scoreless innings. Emmanuel Clase got five outs for his 13th save.

Brian Goodwin and Adam Engel homered for the White Sox, who lead the second-place Indians by eight games in the AL Central despite winning just three times in their last 10 games.

Michael Kopech (3-1) took the loss for the White Sox, allowing five earned runs in just one inning of work.

Perhaps more important to the long-term outlook of the White Sox staff, newly acquired Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth in his first appearance after they acquired him from the Cubs at the trade deadline Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. on 10-day injured list with shoulder trouble

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SAN DIEGO — Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday, a day after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season.

The Padres announced the move prior to their game against the Colorado Rockies. They also placed right-hander Chris Paddack on the IL with an oblique injury.

Tatis, the National League’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, was injured Friday night while sliding awkwardly into third base in the first inning against the Rockies. He was in pain as he was led off the field by manager Jayce Tingler and a trainer.

Tingler said Tatis was “a little bit more sore than maybe some of them we’ve had in the past.”

The Padres, who are in third place in the NL West and in control of the second wild-card spot, are keeping their fingers crossed that the electrifying 22-year-old Tatis will be back in 10 days.

Tatis leads the NL with 31 home runs. He’s hitting .292 with 70 RBIs.

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Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer Daniel Brito suffers medical emergency, postponing Triple-A game

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Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer Daniel Brito suffered a medical emergency during Saturday’s game between the Rochester Red Wings and Lehigh Valley IronPigs, forcing the Triple-A doubleheader in Rochester, New York, to be postponed.

The IronPigs third baseman began to wobble in the bottom of the first inning of the second game and had to be helped by the Red Wings manager — who was coaching in the third-base box. Brito then lay on the field for approximately 20 minutes and was administered oxygen by a paramedic, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. An ambulance eventually arrived and Brito was taken to a local hospital.

“In the best interest of the players and coaches for both teams, today’s Red Wings doubleheader has been suspended due to a medical emergency on the field in the bottom of the 1st inning,” the Red Wings said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Brito, a 23-year-old from Venezuela whom the Phillies signed in 2015, had recently made his debut in Triple-A.

Rochester won the opening game 3-0.



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