FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester  is out to prove he’s a better pitcher than the one that finished 2012. He’s also embracing the challenge of leading a starting rotation that has its doubters heading into 2013.
Lester knows how 2012 ended. He knows he went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts. He knows he was 4-9 with a 4-plus ERA in 17 starts over the final three months of the season. He knows that people are going to be expecting him to turn it around big time if the 2013 Red Sox  are going to come anywhere close to competing.
“I love it. It’s great. Bring it on because of what you guys expect of me is nothing what of I expect of myself,” Lester said when asked Wednesday about being called upon to lead the staff. “I expect a lot. That’s why as far as me being serious, that’s why I am the way I am. I try to live up to my own expectations before everybody else’s. Obviously, that’s never going to happen. But I take my job serious and I want to reach those. Just because I don’t doesn’t mean it’s a failed season.
“Every year my expectations have been higher than what I’ve done but that doesn’t mean it’s a failed season. There’s things that are involved in that season that are good and some that are bad. You try to take every offseason and learn from those and throw out the negatives and move on with the positives and hopefully, you just keep building on those, and your expectations keep getting higher and higher.”
Lester made it very clear, that even with the trade rumors this offseason, he still prefers Boston as a place to pitch more than anywhere in Boston. Even as bad as 2012 was, he still loves his job and still wants to call Fenway home.
“I love baseball. I love Boston,” Lester said. “People don’t see me other than the fifth day, and when I’m out there when I’m out there, I’m not out there to kid around, I’m not out there to joke around with hitters but at the same time, I’m having fun. It may not look like it. I may be cussing up a storm and yelling at somebody but I’m having fun. I love to pitch. I love everything that is pitching, I love everything that there is baseball.
“I also don’t want to also come across as lackadaisical and a loaf and don’t really care about working hard. I take everything I do very seriously. I want my workouts to be the way they should be, I want my bullpen to go the way they should be and I want my game to go the way it should be. If doesn’t, I’m going to be pissed, that’s just who I am. But at the same time, I can improve upon on those in-between days where you don’t take it as serious but I would rather be on the serious side and work my way down and not be the goof-off and work my way.”
Lester was asked if performing in Boston can simply be too much sometimes.
“Yeah, sometimes,” Lester admitted. “Sometimes I want to kind of strangle myself. It can be intimidating, especially when you have years like last year. It’s tough. You know you suck and your teammates are trying to pick you up and everybody else knows you suck and you’re just trying to break even on the whole deal. It’s tough but at the same time, it’s the greatest place to play. You just have to take it in stride. You have to live with it and move on. If you can pitch in Boston, if you can play in Boston and survive and do good, I think you can play anywhere. I think anywhere else would be easy, a cakewalk.”
Much of Wednesday’s 15-minute discussion with Lester had to do with his recognition, aided by those in the organization, of his demonstrative ways on the mound. He spent some of the offseason thinking about ways to improve it.
“Obviously, when you’re out there competing, you’re not really paying attention, you’re trying to compete, you’re trying to get outs,” Lester said. “So, they’re sometimes where somebody has to point it out to you and say, ‘Look, you look like a baby.’ I would rather somebody say that to me than pat me on the butt and try to make it seem like it’s OK. I would rather someone come up to me and say this is terrible, you need to change it. My dad has told me that since I was in fifth grade, when I started pitching. It’s always been a problem. It’s gotten better through the years and it’s something I can always improve on. I sit here and tell you that now, my first game, I might do something. I don’t know.
“It’s something I always I have to improve on and always try to be conscious of when I’m pitching but at the same time, it’s hard to, you’re trying to get big league hitters out, competing and doing all that and not really concerned about yelling at an umpire and not have a laser hit off your forehead while you’re doing it.”
Lester made it clear that while he loves pitching in Boston, he understands the trade speculation that has been associated with his name, especially this past offseason.
“It’s difficult. It is,” Lester said. “Especially, I’ve been here since ’02. It’s home, I love it. Obviously, you understand the circumstances and the business side of it. But it’s always tough, especially during the season when you start hearing that stuff. In the offseason, I didn’t really start hearing about it until it was almost over. When I did, Ned Yost is one of my good friends and he has some hunting land close to where I live. I rode over there one day and was just talking to him and it came up. It is what it is. It’s business. I understand. The Red Sox are trying to put the best team on the field and if that involves me going somewhere else, then no hard feelings. I’ll go play baseball and do my job there. But it is hard at first.”
For more, visit the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox .