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Lester on Opening Day honor: ‘I don’t think I’m any more important than the other four guys in our rotation’

03.27.11 at 4:12 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester had his final spring training tuneup for his Opening Day assignment against the Rangers on Friday. In a camp game at the minor league complex, Lester — facing a lineup primarily of Red Sox Double-A and Triple-A prospects — allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits (including a two-run homer by Luis Exposito) over five innings. He struck out five and walked none.

While the line was less than perfect, Lester said that he was pleased with the effort. He had a chance to work with all of his pitches, and while there were some well-struck balls, a number of hits were of either the broken bat or grounders-finding-holes variety.

“There’€™s always things to work on. I was able to do that today. On a lot of pitches I threw, I felt like I threw pretty good and didn’€™t get the results I wanted. A lot of broken bat hits off the end. Made one mistake to a guy (Exposito) that’€™s pretty strong, hit the ball a long way,” said Lester. “I felt like overall it was better than what the results showed as far as hits. That’€™s a positive thing.

“Pitched out of some jams, had some errors, kind of overcome that, learn how to deal with that,” added the left-hander. “I think it was pretty good as far as preparing for a season. Kind of everything that could happen in a game happened.”

Now, Lester is done pitching in Fort Myers, where he went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, 16 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 innings in Grapefruit League play, while also making a pair of starts at the minor league complex. His next assignment will occur against the Rangers, when Lester gets his first career Opening Day assignment.

The 27-year-old views that start as an honor, albeit one that he tried to downplay.

“It’€™s an honor to pitch Opening Day. It’€™s an honor to get those names [of other members of the rotation] put behind my name,” said Lester. “[But] I don’€™t think I’€™m any more important than the other four guys in our rotation. With that being said, I just try to go out there and not let these guys down, just pitch and not worry about the names that come after my name. …

“It’€™s just a number next to our name. Come week two, it doesn’€™t matter. We all fall into a flow and go from there,” he added. “I don’€™t think it’€™s going to be any more than pitching Game 1 of the playoffs or Game 4 of the World Series. I don’€™t really suspect anything different. The thing is, I’€™ve pitched in more meaningful games.”

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