Jon Lester: MLB, union 'bending over backwards' to finalize health protocols

Tim Stebbins
NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs starter Jon Lester has a message for those keeping tabs on negotiations between MLB and the players union regarding health, safety and financial terms for a 2020 season.

"I think the biggest thing - and I'm guilty of it just like everybody else - you can't believe everything that's put out there," Lester said on WSCR's "Inside the Clubhouse" Saturday morning. "A couple of weeks ago, we had stuff being leaked that wasn't even presented to the players yet. 

"There is just a lot of stuff. I think people have a lot of time on their hands to - I don't want to say fabricate stories - but really try to dig and find things, possible leaks."

MLB submitted its proposal for the 2020 season to the union last week. It includes a 67-page document highlighting the health and safety measures the league intends to implement amid a return during the coronavirus pandemic.

Any plan for the season can't be finalized until the two sides agree on the necessary safety protocols to resume play. Those discussions are ongoing, and then, the league and players have to come to a financial agreement, a proposal for which the league will deliver the players on Tuesday, a source told NBC Sports Chicago. 

RELATED: MLB, players prepared to move in negotiations with 2020 season on the line

Lester stressed patience as the players sort through the 67-page proposal, noting an agreement won't happen overnight as players are bound to have numerous questions. And though the public perception may be the two sides are haggling over terms, Lester said both have been great and their No. 1 concern is the safety of players, coaches and other essential personnel.

"MLB - from the owners' side of it to the players' side of it - we're bending over backwards to try to get this health side of it figured out," he said. "The other stuff [financials], we can kind of figure out as we go. 

"But players, owners and doctors, everyone wants to be safe. So, we don't want to rush into this thing and start risking health. Not only health based on this pandemic, but health physically for the player when it comes to a shortened spring training and trying to get revved up for a season that fast."

Lester, 36, has been training at home to keep his strength up and throwing at a local Atlanta high school. He highlighted the biggest challenge in returning to play is the unknown of when he should start ramping his training up for a second "spring" training, unlike a normal season, when camp starts in February.

"Right now, there's no date to build towards. That unknown is throwing you off mentally," he said. "You can't really get after it, you can't really prepare like you would for a normal spring training. 

"That being said, when you get there, whatever that date may be, I know our medical staff, our coaching staff, we're all going to be erring on the side of caution to get guys ramped up. We definitely don't want to be coming in first day and throwing an inning or two innings to hitters and now you're pushing yourself back to where you possibly can't even play 81 games, or 82 games. There is just that fine line."

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Jon Lester: MLB, union 'bending over backwards' to finalize health protocols originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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