Jon Lester working on bounce-pass to first base to overcome throwing yips

Big League Stew

A well-executed bounce pass in basketball can be a beautiful thing.

Whether playing a key supporting role in a highlight-reel dunk or used to maneuver through a crowded half-court zone, a bucket is often the result.

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In baseball? A bounce pass is usually a mistake.

Not for Jon Lester. Not now at, least. The Chicago Cubs pitcher is a four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, but famously can’t complete one of baseball’s most basic plays with any amount of confidence.

Jon Lester is working on a bounce pass to get over his throwing yips. (AP)
Jon Lester is working on a bounce pass to get over his throwing yips. (AP)

Lester is a victim of the yips when it comes to throwing to first base. It shows up when the ball is in play and on pickoff situations with a man on first. For whatever reason, Lester just isn’t confident throwing the ball anywhere but home plate.

Now he’s taking the unorthodox approach of intentionally bouncing the ball to first base when he fields a hit ball. It showed up during Sunday’s spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On first glance, that looks like a typical bad throw from Lester to first.

And while, yes, that is a bad throw, it’s anything but typical. That bounce pass to first baseman Efren Navarro was on purpose, a technique he’s working on with new third base coach Brian Butterfield.

“We’ve worked the skip pass on the third base side, where there’s a little bit more distance and we’ve also worked it on the first base side, where he can get his body turned around and just short arm stroke, almost like throwing a dart and getting that skip,” Butterfield told the Associated Press.

Lester put it in relatable terms for Chicago fans while talking with reporters.

“We’ve been working on the Jordan-to-Pippen bounce pass,” Lester said. … “In [Butterfield’s] words, just eliminate all tension and bounce it over there. We’ve been working on it early in the morning. … I don’t really care what it looks like. I don’t care if it bounces 72 times over there. An out’s an out.”

In Sunday’s case, it wasn’t an out. Only time and practice will tell if Lester can turn that play into a consistent out with regular first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

In the meantime, Pippen approves of the effort.




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