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Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Tillman

03.31.14 at 6:41 am ET
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For the fourth consecutive year, Jon Lester will get the nod for Opening Day as he faces off against the Orioles and Chris Tillman in Baltimore.

Lester comes into the 2014 season after posting a 15-8 record with a 3.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29 during the Red Sox World Series run last year. The 30-year-old lefty finished off the year with five appearances during the postseason when he gave up a mere six runs in 34 2/3 innings.

“He’€™s become a very good pitcher at a young age,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “And the early trajectory of his career, for a guy that’€™s made that number of starts for a franchise as storied as this, without having gotten to free agency yet, all those things combine. It speaks volumes for a talented guy at a very early age.”

Despite dealing with contract talks over the past few months, Lester had one of the better spring trainings of his career as he posted a 0.71 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP in three starts. The team and Lester announced on Saturday that while talks of a contract extension were going amicably, they would table the discussion for the time being. Lester is heading into the $13 million option year on what was originally a five-year, $30 million deal that he agreed to after the 2008 season.

Lester last faced the Orioles on Sept. 28, 2013, in a game the Red Sox ultimately lost 6-5. The southpaw gave up four earned runs on nine hits over five innings of action and received a no-decision in the start. Overall, Lester has a 15-3 record against the Orioles with a 2.94 ERA over the course of 25 starts.

In contrast to Lester, Tillman is making just his first Opening Day start after having one of the best seasons of his career in 2013. The 25-year-old righty pitched to a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA and a WHIP of 1.22 in 33 starts. Before turning in an All-Star and ace-worthy performance in 2013, Tillman had just 16 wins over the previous four years combined.

Tillman, who is in his sixth season with Baltimore, made five starts during the spring and accumulated a 4.67 ERA with a 1.50 WHIP. He missed one appearance because of a bout with the flu.

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Read More: Chris Tillman, Jon Lester,

Jonny Gomes on setting tone in opener: ‘We know the tone’

03.31.14 at 2:38 am ET
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Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

BALTIMORE — With the Red Sox opening their 2014 regular season Monday, Jonny Gomes was asked to reflect back on the importance of the team’€™s previous Opening Day.

On that day — April 1, 2013 — the Sox kicked off what would ultimately be a world championship run with an 8-2 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Coming off a disastrous 69-win season in 2012, the game meant more than just one of 162. According to Gomes, it was a feeling that paved the way for the team’€™s confidence heading into Monday.

“I think this year is a smidge different,” the outfielder said. “Last year we wanted to set the tone, and we do want to set the tone again but we know what the tone sounds like. We know the tone.

“I think it’€™s a positive we have a smidge of a head-start than we did last year. It’€™s not as much setting the tone as continuing the tone that was set.”

Just about everything that the Red Sox hoped to accomplish in that game in New York came to fruition for John Farrell‘€™s team.

Jon Lester pitched a solid five innings, the top of the Red Sox order (Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia) combined for seven hits, the bullpen combined for four innings of one-hit ball, and Gomes helped supply an aggressiveness on the basepaths, scoring from second on an infield hit.

Next thing they knew, they had won 20 of their first 28 games.

“Jonny Gomes scoring from second base was an extension of what we worked on a lot in spring training, and that’s how important baserunning is to us,” Farrell said. “If there are situations that start [Monday] and call for that, I’m hopeful and confident that we’ll respond as we’ve drilled daily in spring training.”

“It’€™s what we needed. But we just got thrown right to the wolves. Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, at their place, not ours, CC [Sabathia], the best of the best, and we fired on all aspects of the game,” Gomes said. “We pitched, we ran and we played defense. We set the bar high, so we wanted to continue that. We didn’t want to look back and say, ‘We wish we would play like we did Opening Day.’ I think the main thing is just tempo and energy. It’€™s just carrying over from last year.”

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Read More: Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes,

Jon Lester talks contract (again): ‘If I use that as motivation, I’ve got problems’

03.30.14 at 4:40 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — While some of the questions directed at Jon Lester Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards focused on the lefty making his fourth straight Opening Day start on Monday, there continued to be a line of inquiry having to do with Lester’€™s contract status.

Here are Lester’€™s responses to all contract-related conversation.

On if it’s difficult to not think about: “I wouldn’t say completely leave your mind. I mean, it’€™s kind of like having the elephant in the room — we all know the circumstances that are there this year. I would like to think I’€™m good about dealing with outside things. When I’€™m at the park I’€™m thinking about what I need to do that day to get better and worry about the other stuff when I’€™m done. It is what it is, I can’€™t change it, it’€™s something that’€™s going to be there and there are going to be questions, and I’€™ll have to give answers but it’€™s something we’€™ll deal with along the way.”

On comparisons to Max Scherzer‘€™s situation: “Different circumstances. I feel like they kind of put an exclamation point on that, they said, ‘Hey I’€™m going to free agency’ — I haven’€™t said that, I haven’€™t implied that to Ben [Cherington], or John [Henry] or Larry [Lucchino], any of those guys, I think it’€™s a little bit different situation. Like I said, you guys asked me if I would accept that deal. Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it’€™s there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we’€™ll deal with that when it comes.”

On if the contract will be motivation: “If I use that for motivation, I’ve got problems. That’€™s not what motivates me to go out and pitch and get better. Money has never driven me, I love baseball, I love to play, so what drives me is to be the best pitcher I can and go out and help my team win.”

On if it will be an issue as the season progresses: “To really be honest, nothing’€™s changed. It goes back to what I said earlier about worrying about the next start. I’€™m focused on tomorrow, and five days from that, worry about that one. That’€™s the way I’ve always tried to live my career. If I start thinking about the All-Star break, ‘Maybe we’€™ll start talking again,’ or start worrying about the offseason and possibly being a free agent — like I said, I’€™m worried about the wrong things. That’€™s kind of how I try to live my life: What do I have to do today? The next day comes, what do I have to do today. I think if you take that approach, at least for me, that’€™s the way I think. I’€™m a very black and white thinker. That works. That’€™s the way I approached last year and every other year and that’€™s the way I’€™m going to approach this year.’€™’€™

On how things were left with the Red Sox: “I think you can take that really any way you want to. Is it disappointing? Sure. Is it disappointing for them? Probably. But that’€™s just negotiation. Like I’ve said before, and Ben, I’€™m sure he’€™ll say the same thing. It’€™s not like we’€™re hammering our heads against each other. We’€™re in a good place on both sides. Both sides have been very reasonable about what we’ve been talking about. There’€™s no animosity on my side towards them, I would hope the same comes from them. Yes, disappointed it didn’t get done, but we all have to be realistic about it and understand that it’€™s a process and that it’€™s going to take some time. I know that, they know that, and like I said before the other day when Ben made the comments about it, it was more of a joint thing — we talked about it the day before and agreed upon what should be said on both sides. We’€™re all in a good place. We’€™ll see what happens. Let those guys deal with it, and I’€™ll play baseball.”

Read More: Jon Lester, Red Sox,

Red Sox’ decision on Shane Victorino won’t come until Monday

03.30.14 at 1:05 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Speaking prior to the Red Sox‘ workout inside Camden Yards, manager John Farrell explained that Shane Victorino would be returning to Boston Sunday in order to have an MRI on his right hamstring before being examined early Monday.

Farrell said that if Victorino’s hamstring checked out OK, the outfielder would be able to return to Baltimore in time to participate in Opening Day (a 3 p.m. start), if needed.

“No word on Shane. He’s en route back to Boston right now,” Farrell said. “He’ll go through an MRI this afternoon and then a full work-up and exam tomorrow morning. So there’s no roster decision. There’s no update to give you at this point.”

Due to Major League Baseball regulations, the Red Sox aren’t allowed to have a non-roster player on the premises as a back-up plan. Teams’ 25-man rosters were due at 3 p.m. Sunday. “We can’t have someone hanging around,” Farrell noted.

It is assumed that if Victorino would need to go on the 15-day disabled list, Jackie Bradley Jr. would serve as his replacment.

Victorino aggravated his hamstring during the Red Sox’ final spring training game, Saturday. He has also dealt with thumb, back, calf and side issues throughout camp.

“Shane’s situation is going to be one of the challenges and things thrown our way that we don’t know what is going to come up against us, or the challenges that we face,” Farrell said. “As long as we remain resilient, as we did a year ago, and face those challenges as a team I feel we’ll be in a very good place and position as we go through this journey of 2014.”

Read More: John Farrell, Red Sox, Shane Victorino,

Getting ready for Red Sox’ opener with some Opening Day notes

03.30.14 at 10:46 am ET
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BALTIMORE ‘€“ To get you ready for Opening Day, here are some pertinent notes courtesy the crack Red Sox media relations staff:

- With his fourth Opening Day start, Jon Lester will become the first Red Sox lefty to total more than three, surpassing Babe Ruth and Mel Parnell.

- Only Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens (7), and Dennis Eckersley and Cy Young (5) have more consecutive Opening Day starts than Lester.

- Lester 15-3 in 25 starts for his career against Baltimore. His 2.94 ERA vs. the Orioles is the best of any active pitcher (with min. of 115 innings) vs. the O’€™s. He is 8-1 with a 2.99 ERA at Camden Yards, the best ERA for any opposing pitcher in the history of the stadium.

- The Red Sox have lost their last three Opening Day matchups against the Orioles, with the most recent tilt coming in 2004 when Martinez got the loss.

- The Red Sox are 55-57-1 in openers, having claimed victories in four of their last six. It is also the fourth year in a row they have opened on the road. In fact, the Sox have begun their regular season away from Fenway Park in 16 of the last 19 seasons.

- This will be David Ortiz‘€™ 10th Opening Day start for the Red Sox, tying him with Wade Boggs and Dom DiMaggio for eighth on the team’€™s all-time list. He will also match the most Opening Day starts with one team by a designated hitter in baseball history, tying Hal McRae and Edgar Martinez. The 12 starts in openers for his career also allows Ortiz to equal Don Baylor’€™s record.

- Dustin Pedroia has hit safely in each of his seven openers, tying a team record. In the last 100 years, no Red Sox has hit safely in eight straight Opening Day games.

Read More: Jon Lester, Opening Day, Orioles, Red Sox

Shane Victorino will have MRI after hamstring injury

03.29.14 at 5:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Shane Victorino’s right hamstring has allowed for some uncertainty heading into Monday’s Opening Day.

The Sox’ outfielder was forced to leave the Red Sox‘ final spring training game, Saturday against the Twins, due to a sore leg. The hamstring ailment is something he was forced to deal with during the 2013 season, although Victorino consistently throughout his time in Florida the issue hadn’t resurfaced.

“In Shane’s second at-bat, rounding first base, he felt his right hamstring grab him,” Farrell told reporters. “Until we have further information after an MRI, we’ll have an announcement at that point.”

Victorino will have the MRI performed in Boston before meeting the Red Sox in Baltimore. His only comments to reporters upon leaving the clubhouse were, “I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go.”

If the right fielder does need to go on the 15-day disabled list, Jackie Bradley Jr. would likely get the call to replace him on the 25-man roster.

“He’s on call, certainly,” Farrell said of Bradley Jr., citing the need to wait for the results of Victorino’s exam.

Victorino has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout camp, playing in just nine Grapefruit League games. He first was sidelined with a lingering back issue, and then was briefly forced from the lineup due to some discomfort in his surgically-repaired right thumb. He also was dealing with a calf injury recently, which didn’t appear serious.

Jon Lester: Talks ‘very, very positive … our door is always open’

03.29.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (WEEI.com)

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester discussed the “pause” that the Red Sox and he agreed to take in negotiations of a potential contract extension, suggesting that he found the talks “very encouraging,” that he still wants to remain with the Sox beyond the expiration of his current contract at the end of this year but that the two sides felt that, with Opening Day upon them, it made sense to resume talks at a subsequent time. Lester, who’d said talks would have continued into the season had they reached “the 5-yard line,” said that they had not reached the “red zone,” thus resulting in the decision.

Still, the pitcher said that the “door is always open” to talks during the season, but that he’d be less directly involved in them in deference to his in-season responsibilities. He characterized the dialogue as “amicable,” and showed no evidence of pessimism about the potential for a deal ultimately getting done.

Here is a transcript of some of his remarks:

On reaching the decision to ‘pause’ talks:

“We talked yesterday about it. That was a collective kind of statement from both sides. At the point where I felt like if we continued it would be a distraction. Just felt like for right now, that’s probably the best decision for both sides.”

Is there any disappointment that, given your interest in getting a deal done, you haven’t accomplished that yet?

“I don’t know if disappointing is the right word. I think any time you go into a position like this, you have to prepare yourself for something to not happen. Like I’ve said from the beginning, both sides, it was very encouraging, the stuff that was going on, but like I said and like Ben said, where we’re at right now isn’t a good time to continue. Just put it on pause for now and see where we go from there.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: contract extension, Jon Lester, spring training 2014,
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