"I had the conversation this morning," Maddon said Thursday. "I called Jon Lester and asked Jonny if he'd mind being the Opening Day starter. He's earned it and deserved it. I also talked to Jake about being the No. 2 guy. Jake understood why we went with Jon first."
It will be Lester's second Opening Day start in three years for the Cubs. Arrieta was the Opening Day starter in 2016 after winning the Cy Young Award the year before.
Lester finished second in Cy Young voting last season after going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA.
"Kyle was throwing things," Maddon joked. "I saw Lester walk by him and probably said something and all of a sudden stuff was like flying all over the weight room and I knew Jon broke the news to him."
The Cubs won the World Series behind Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks last season. They open 2017 on April 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals.