Lester on D&C: ‘No complacency around here’
|02.26.10 at 1:00 pm ET|
Jon Lester, one of the members of “The Big Three” of Red Sox pitchers, joined Dennis & Callahan in Fort Myers on Friday. The big left-hander discussed the chance to pitch with two other aces in Josh Beckett and John Lackey.
“I think it just takes pressure off everybody else,” said Lester. “We are hopefully not going to have a lot of losing streaks. Every game is going to be a battle and go out there and put up zeroes. That’s what we get paid to do and hopefully we will able to do it better than last year.”
Lester said he might try and lobby a little harder to stay in some ball games now that he has gained veteran status, but would not brew up any spring training controversy.
Here is a transcript. To listen to the interview, click here.
What would it take for you to rant and rave about taking the ball on Opening Day? We need controversy.
It would take a lot. There are too many good pitchers on our staff to complain about that.
Getting the ball in Game 1 of the playoffs is out the question too then?
It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll take the ball whenever. I’m easy. I’ve never been a big guy in believing in that stuff. Opening Day would be nice. It’d be fun, but at the same time I just want to pitch.
How about a better locker?
I like my locker actually.
Better seat on the plane?
I’m all right there, too.
How does Terry Francona make the decision on who gets the ball?
I don’t know how he is going to do it. I would assume it has something with being a veteran or last year or maybe when we get into spring training who is on a roll. I don’t know. Really after the first week it really doesn’t matter who is what or who’s Opening Day starter or anything like that.
How does the presence of two other aces help the third ace?
I think it just takes pressure off everybody else. We are hopefully not going to have a lot of losing streaks. Every game is going to be a battle and go out there and put up zeroes. That’s what we get paid to do and hopefully we will able to do it better than last year.
What letter grade would you give yourself last year?
Can I break it down into halves?
A F in the first half and an A in the second half. I don’t know what happened that first half, I guess I got ahead of myself with wanting games to be over before they started and wanting to look up and see if we won or lost. Overall about a C.
What will you change to get off to a better start this year?
I don’t know what physically I need to do. I know mentally I need to change up a couple of things like I said when the game starts I need to focus on that and focus on the first guy and getting him out and worrying about an inning to inning where last year I worried about the sixth, seventh and eighth inning before I got there.
You didn’t see anything mechanically wrong in the first half?
No, mechanically I was fine. Like I said I just don’t think my process was there mentally. Physically I felt great. I was throwing the ball fine, it just seemed like it snowballed into one inning that would kill me, and that was because I’d get to that fourth or fifth inning and worry about getting to the seventh instead of worrying about the fourth and fifth inning and just getting ahead of myself.
Do you always have that cool demeanor?
It depends on the day. It depends on the day when I’m pitching too. There are some days when little things will set me off. I may not show it on the mound but in the dugout I’ll do my little ranting and raving in there. It depends there are some days when you can put a bomb in the outfield and it will go off and it won’t bother me. There are some days when the littlest thing can go wrong and it will set me off, it kind of depends how things are going at the time.
Did you learn that or were you born that way?
I used to get in trouble a lot by my parents as a kid. Especially playing basketball with refs making calls and stuff like that and kind of arguing with them and getting in trouble that way. It was something that was learned and it’s a process that everyone goes through it. You have to worry about outside influences in the game and learn how to control it. The good ones are able to control it like Josh and J.D. [Drew] and Lackey, you hardly ever see him go off.
He gets closer than you do.
He does but that’s his personality. But the guys that are able to control it throughout the game, they may have one little blow up or one little deal in there but are able to wipe the slate clean and keep pitching. Those are the guys that are good.
What did dad do to you when you got a technical?
I just got the scolding on the way home. I got the disappointed speech in the back of the car.
Did you play worse when you get mad?
Oh yeah, especially in baseball because you are so worried about what an umpire is doing or a bad call or missed play, something that happened and you are not focused on the hitter and you end up giving up a two-run homer instead of getting a double play.
Are there certain parks that don’t feel right for a pitcher?
Yeah, there are some parks you get out there and home plate seems a mile away. Oakland is a tough place to play for me. The old Yankee stadium you felt like you were here to that wall, to home plate. It was great. The new one is OK. I love pitching at Fenway. You are right on top of the hitter. You feel tall up there. It’s a good place. There are some other places I can’t think about it off the top of my head.
Does a hate for a ballpark change when the uniform changes, in the case of John Lackey?
I think so. You become more comfortable there. Now you are the good guy. Now you are pitching for us and you are on our side and there is not that added factor. Also he doesn’t have to face our lineup, that’s another big thing. I know we are not comparable to the Yankees but you don’t get any breaks. We are always up there battling, always up there putting up good at-bats and it’s tough for pitchers to pitch against teams like us.
You win 95 games and you go home upset, that’s sort of a good thing isn’t it?
Oh yeah, I mean no matter how good we are there is always stuff to improve on. Even after the World Series year guys were like let’s go we got to get 95 wins, we got to get back to the playoffs. There is no complacency around here. There is always the we need to get better, we need to work harder to be on top every year. I think that’s something that’s engraved in us in the minor leagues as well. It makes that transition up here a little bit easier.
What have you learned from Josh Beckett?
When I first got called up, and this is the hardest part of pitching in the big leagues, is developing your own routine and figuring out what works for you. Everybody is different and guys prepare different ways to pitch every five days. [Curt Shilling] was a guy who was on the computer all the time, he was watching guys’ history and prepared that way. I tried that and it didn’t work for me. I had too much information and it was more like being a robot than pitching. I started watching Josh and he is a more physical guy. He gets his body able to pitch every five days. I said I’ll try it, not that I didn’t do it before, but I’ll start to do it to his extent, doing the same routine and all that deal, and my body started feeling better and I felt freer out on the mound. The less knowledge I have the better I pitch.
That’s Papelbon’s secret.
Yeah, it’s great, honestly. It sounds like you have no info out there but I’m a feel guy. I have to go out there, and I could have all the scouting reports in the world and it’s not going to help me. I have to know from personal experience what goes on.
Are there specific things you do at a certain time on game day?
Not a certain time. There are certain things I do. I eat the same breakfast, that’s more of I know it’s not going to upset my stomach and I know it’s a good breakfast for me. Same thing with lunch, I eat the same lunch on the day I pitch. But there is no specific I have to do it at 5 o clock, I have to do it at whatever. I just kind of go with the flow and get it done.
What’s your lunch?
I just have a plain turkey sandwich with chips and some water. Something plain, you don’t want to go out there and be gassy. It’s bad when you got some of that stuff going on.
Is there a better top three in all of baseball? Is it something you guys talk about?
No. It’s cool to be up there with the top pitchers in baseball but it’s a long season and a lot of things can happen. Last year everyone was talking about how good our pitching staff was and how much depth we got and we have all these guys, and it didn’t really work out for us. This year I’m trying to stay away from being too excited about it, but it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be fun to kind of take turns with these guys.
When do you start feeling the fatigue and drag of the season?
It kind of goes in spurts, it doesn’t actually happen on one start. You go through ups and downs every year. Last year we pitched in Washington and I went to Atlanta and I could barely throw a baseball. It kind of worked itself back and I made my next start and everything was fine from there. You just go through the little peaks and valleys, and that’s what you try to do, you make it as small as you can and you don’t want to jump on that roller coaster ride and go up and down.
What are your goals?
It’s hard to make goals as a pitcher. My main goal is to stay healthy. Obviously 200 innings is a big goal for me. But a lot of the stuff I can’t control. I can’t control when I get taken out of games and I can’t control what happens after I leave the game. Wins are hard to put a number on, it would be nice to get a lot of them I like winning. But the main thing is to get to the playoffs and win a World Series.
You don’t lobby to stay in the game very often do you?
I haven’t, but I’m probably going to start. Before I didn’t think I had the right to say anything. I hadn’t been around a long time, hadn’t really proven anything, but maybe this year I’ll try to lobby a couple more times.
There are times in the past when you would have said something?
I mean I’ve said it in the dugout but it didn’t go far. I would say, “Let me go,” and it was a no so I said OK. Most of the time Tito is right in those decisions. Especially in close games it’s better to get a fresh arm out there in the eighth, ninth inning and we got Pap in there so it’s always good. It’s better nine out of 10 times. There’s that time when it always backfires on you but I’m not going to push it too much.
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