For Jon Lester, it was just the beginning of the road to Opening Day. Nothing more, nothing less.
Lester pitched two scoreless innings Friday in Mesa, Ariz., in his spring debut with the Chicago Cubs, who lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 5-2.
The veteran lefthander got Billy Hamilton to fly to right leading off the game, then struck out Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier, and Jay Bruce — all swinging. He broke Chris Dominguez's bat on a one-out single in the second, and Kristopher Negron followed with a double-play grounder.
''It was all right,'' Lester said. ''Tempo was good, I felt good about that . . . Now it's time to build off that.''
Lester was one of the top free agents in the offseason, and opted for a $155 million, six-year contract with Chicago. He went 16-11 with a career-low 2.46 ERA in 32 starts with Boston and Oakland last year.
The Cubs have had a losing record for five straight years, but they begin this season with high expectations after an active winter — highlighted by signing Lester.
''If you're not expecting yourself to win, then why are you playing the game?'' said Lester, who also will get the ball for the first regular-season game against St. Louis. ''I don't show up to lose.''
Along with the hugs and that Cadillac with the White Sox flags, Ron Kittle will simply miss being around Minnie Minoso.
In that sense, he is hardly alone.
Minoso, part of a wave of black players who helped integrate the sport, was remembered as much for his warm demeanor as his accomplishments on the field. A long line of family, friends, and fans paid their respects at a public visitation at Chicago's Holy Family Church. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, with the procession afterward taking the ''Cuban Comet'' past US Cellular Field and old Comiskey Park's home plate.
''He's gonna be dearly missed by the whole city of Chicago and pretty much the baseball world because he made an impact,'' said former White Sox slugger Kittle.
The game's first black Latino star, Minoso died early Sunday. He was believed to be 90. His passing comes on the heels of the loss of Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who died Jan. 23 at age 83.
''You lose him, you lose Ernie Banks, two instrumental people in Chicago,'' Kittle said. ''It's a tough year.''
Minoso played 12 of his 17 seasons in Chicago, hitting .304 with 135 homers and 808 RBIs for the White Sox. The White Sox retired his No. 9 in 1983 and there is a statue of him at US Cellular Field.
His absence from the Hall of Fame is a sore spot for his admirers. But there were as many smiles as there were tears on Friday for a player who — like Banks — connected with fans in a way that stretched way beyond the numbers. They felt like they knew him. He was always around, always willing to sign every last autograph.
He was a pioneer, a player who paved the way for generations of Latin American players.
He endured insults from opposing players and the indignity of not being welcome in certain restaurants, yet he never became bitter.
''He was great on the field,'' said his son, Orestes Minoso Arrieta Jr. ''I don't have to say that. But he was also great off the field — doing good to others, seeing the good in others, understanding the times that he lived in and being able to excel under such difficult situations.''
Guilty plea in Biogenesis case
The attorney for a former University of Miami pitching coach says he will plead guilty to lesser charges in the baseball steroid investigation.
Federal prosecutors dropped the more serious steroid distribution counts against Lazaro ''Laser'' Collazo in favor of simple testosterone possession charges, each punishable by a year in prison.
Defense attorney Frank Quintero confirmed in a statement that Collazo will plead guilty to the misdemeanor charges. A plea hearing is set for March 16.
Collazo was among those indicted in the steroids scandal involving the Biogenesis of America clinic operated by Anthony Bosch. If Collazo pleads guilty, only Yuri Sucart — cousin of Yankees star Alex Rodriguez — still awaits trial.
Fourteen ballplayers were suspended last year, including Rodriguez for the entire season.
Kemp has two hits for Padres
Matt Kemp collected his first two hits with the Padres, including a single against touted prospect Carlos Rodon, and San Diego beat the White Sox, 5-0, in Peoria, Ariz. The 22-year-old Rodon, the third pick in the 2014 draft, struck out four — all on sliders — and hit a batter in two scoreless innings. The lefthander made a fast rise through the minors last year, finishing at Triple-A Charlotte . . . Chris Taylor, competing with Brad Miller to be the Mariners’ starting shortstop, had a home run and triple in Glendale, Ariz., in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers . . . In Kissimmee, Fla., Tyler Moore homered, tripled, and drove in five runs, leading the Nationals past the Braves, 9-8 . . . In Tempe, Ariz., Angels ace Jered Weaver pitched 2⅔ sharp innings in a 3-0 win over the Rockies. Weaver, who was 18-9 last season, allowed two hits, struck out one, and walked one . . . Mets ace Matt Harvey pitched in his first game in 18 months, retiring all six Tigers he faced in Port St. Lucie, Fla., striking out three while featuring a fastball that reached 99 miles per hour . . . Yusmeiro Petit, who set a major league record last year retiring 46 consecutive batters, pitched two perfect innings for the Giants in Surprise, Ariz. . . . Yasiel Puig got his first hit of the spring and immediately followed it with his first baserunning blunder as the Dodgers beat the Brewers, 10-1, in Phoenix.
Puig smuggler sentenced
A South Florida businessman has been sentenced to a month in prison and 5 months' house arrest for his role in the smuggling of Puig out of Cuba. US District Judge Robert Scola gave Gilberto Suarez less than the one-year maximum, partly because his smuggling role was limited to getting Puig to the Mexico-Texas border in 2012 . . . Lefthander Joe Beimel and the Rangers agreed to a $600,000, one-year contract that would escalate to $1.5 million if he spends at least one day on the active major league roster during the regular season . . . Royals reliever Tim Collins, vying to be a situational lefthander in the Kansas City bullpen, will seek a second opinion after an MRI exam revealed ligament damage in his left elbow. Royals second baseman Omar Infante will get an MRI because of continued soreness in his right elbow . . . Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was a late scratch against the Orioles because of tightness in his right hamstring . . . The Mets are hosting the families of slain New York City Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu this weekend. Ramos's sons — Justin, 19, and Jayden, 13 — are serving as Mets bat boys and were given lockers in the team's clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Fla.