|Jon Lester on shouldering more of the load: ‘Bring it on’||02.13.13 at 1:37 pm ET|
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.” Read the rest of this entry »
|John Farrell on D&C: ‘I think this team has the talent to contend and ultimately win this division’||at 9:55 am ET|
New Red Sox manager John Farrell stopped by for a visit with Dennis & Callahan from spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday morning, a day after pitchers and catchers reported to start the task of putting a miserable 2012 season behind them.
“I think more than anything, given what this team has come off of over the last year-plus, I think we have a great opportunity in front of us to rewrite the story that’s been the case of recent years,” Farrell said. “And talking to guys throughout the season, whether that was November 1st on, there was a genuine eagerness to put what has happened behind them and get down here and get back on the field and prepare for this season.”
Expectations are low for the Red Sox heading into the 2013 campaign, but Farrell sees hope. Asked if he thinks the Sox can win the AL East, Farrell said: “I do, yes. And that’s fine [that predictions have the Sox finishing fourth or fifth]. People are going to think what they want, project what they care to. But I think this team has got a lot of depth, a lot of talent. There’s balance. When you look at the lineup up and down, there’s speed, there’s power, there’s left-right balance. Our bullpen emerged as a strength of a year ago, and that’s been fortified with [Joel] Hanrahan coming in here.
“We know that the rotation is the area that we’ve got to get more consistent innings, higher number of quality innings from the group of five. You look at any team, the deeper they go into a season contending or into the postseason, large in part is probably because of the performance of that rotation.”
Added Farrell: “I think this team has the talent to contend and ultimately win this division.”
Injuries were devastating to the Sox last year, and two pitchers already are having issues as spring training begins.
“We started off already, Clay [Buchholz] obviously straining the hamstring yesterday, so that’s going to put him out a couple of days. We’ll get a better read on his condition this morning,” Farrell said. “Felix Doubront is probably six days behind the group. He’ll be back on the mound on Monday.”
|Hot Stove: Royals manager Ned Yost on Wil Myers rumors and KC’s pursuit of a starter||12.03.12 at 5:45 pm ET|
Royals manager Ned Yost suggested that outfielder Wil Myers — Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2012 after hitting 37 homers in Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old — reminds him of a young Dale Murphy, the former Braves center fielder and two-time NL MVP. He suggested that like Murphy, Myers has 30-plus homer potential. Kansas City plans to let him compete for an everyday job in spring training.
That said, in the aftermath of reports (including from WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford) last week that had the Royals considering trade proposals that would send Myers elsewhere for a front-of-the-rotation starter such as Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester or Tampa Bay’s James Shields, Yost also acknowledged that the Royals are open to the possibility of trading top prospects for a pitcher who can anchor their starting staff.
“Absolutely,” Yost said of the possibility of trading a top prospect for a starter. “But I can give you like nine more scenarios. … We’re looking at all of our options. We feel like we’re really close to being able to compete, and we’re looking at every option that we can. [Royals GM Dayton Moore has] worked really hard over the last five years to fill our minor league system with tremendous prospects that we can use for situations like this. We’re looking at a bunch of different options. One may work out; none may work out. We’re just going to do what’s best for our organization.
“Starting pitching, can’t have enough of it,” he added. “I’d like to have as much as I can get. But at what cost? That’s important to me.”
For now, Yost said, he felt no need to talk to Myers about his spot in the rumor mill.
“We’re talking about stuff, just like all organizations are, we’ve been locked up in our room, going over 90 different scenarios with 40 different players,” said Yost. “They’re just rumors right now.”
|Ben Cherington on trading a starting pitcher: ‘We have to be open-minded’||12.01.12 at 12:09 pm ET|
In the past, it is the sort of conversation that would never happen with the Red Sox. The idea of trading a front-of-the-rotation starter who is in his prime, with a track record of considerable success, healthy, affordable and under team control for multiple years? There wasn’t a point to the Red Sox discussing such players, and other teams never bothered to engage the Sox about them.
Now, after a 69-93 2012 season, the world looks different. The Sox already showed a willingness to make the type of trade that they never would have considered in the past in August, when they dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers in one colossal reshaping of the team’s roster and payroll. And so now, perhaps, it should come as little surprise that the team is at least in a position where it has to consider discussing anyone in the rotation in a potential trade, including a pitcher like 28-year-old Jon Lester.
That’s not to say that the team is eager to let Lester go. But if there’s a team that’s willing to consider offering a potentially massive asset — someone like, for instance, Royals outfielder (and Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year) Wil Myers, then the Sox are in a position to listen.
GM Ben Cherington has said that the Sox are looking to add a fifth starter via trade or free agency to a group that already includes Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and John Lackey. But, Cherington acknowledged on Saturday at the Christmas at Fenway event, he won’t rule out the possibility of dealing one of those four pitchers, thus creating a need to add two starters this winter.
‘Anything is possible, but certainly it’s harder to do that, to subtract somebody from the rotation,” said Cherington. ‘We have a number of players that teams like. We’re in a perhaps different situation than we have been in the past coming off the year we did. Maybe in light of that, teams not surprisingly are inquiring about things that maybe they wouldn’t have in the past. Look, we have to be open-minded; we lost 93 games. But our primary focus is to build the best team we can for 2013 and one that doesn’t in any way get in the way of a great team for a long time. That’s our focus, and that will guide us for the next several weeks. But you’ve got to be open-minded when you have a year like this, and we’re trying to build a team that will sustain a level of success over a long period of time.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox manager John Farrell: Why David Ross was a priority to sign, and ‘non-negotiable’ rules for Alfredo Aceves||11.23.12 at 11:29 am ET|
Red Sox manager John Farrell, in an interview with the Red Sox Hot Stove Show on Thursday night, touched on a number of topics related to the Red Sox offseason, including detailing the process related to the hiring of the coaching staff, his expectations for reliever Alfredo Aceves, his expectations for the type of lineup that the Red Sox will feature, how John Lackey will be viewed entering spring training and how he views his role regarding work with pitchers with whom he has a history such as Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.
Farrell, who has made no secret of his desire to implement an aggressive, up-tempo offensive style, also suggested that a corollary desire to shut down opponents’ running games played a role in the decision to sign catcher David Ross to a two-year, $6.2 million. The Sox in 2012 ranked 12th in the American League and 26th in the majors by throwing out just 20 percent of attempted base-stealers (well below the league average of 26 percent). That difficulty in controlling the running game of opponents has been a common theme over the last several years, including Farrell’s years as Red Sox pitching coach:
2012: 20 percent caught stealing; 12th in AL; 26th in MLB
2011: 24 percent caught stealing; 11th in AL; 23rd in MLB
2010: 20 percent caught stealing; 13th in AL; 29th in MLB
2009: 13 percent caught stealing; 14th in AL; 30th in MLB
2008: 25 percent caught stealing; 9th in AL; 19th in MLB
2007: 23 percent caught stealing; 10th in AL; 21st in MLB
Ross, meanwhile, has thrown out 37.5 percent of attempted base stealers over the last eight years, the second best percentage in the majors during that time to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
“We brought David in to improve our team. Has he had a track record of being able to throw runners out? Yes he has. But he also brings a number of things that we’re looking for,” said Farrell. “He’s got leadership capabilities and qualities that fit well behind the plate in that position. He’s shown over the course of an entire career to be a very good game caller and to get the most out of pitchers on a given night.
“But on the bigger picture, in the bigger topic that you raise here, going back the last couple of years here [including with] myself as a pitching coach, we were not very good at controlling the running game. We have to become better at that. That will be a main point of emphasis in spring training, and looking back over the last couple of years, finding ways to do just that. It will be, I’m not going to say a hot spot, but a point of emphasis in spring training. The running game has come back to being employed not just in the AL East but across baseball as home run totals have dropped, the running game has become much more a part of it, and controlling it falls much more on the pitchers and catchers to control it and do the best job capable.”
|Tuesday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Jon Lester vs. David Phelps||10.02.12 at 3:00 pm ET|
After being swept by the Orioles over the weekend and after a disappointing start to the series with the Yankees, the Sox look to make it through the final two games with a chance to reach 70 wins on the season.
Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94 ERA) takes the ball for the final time this season. In a season that included the departure of Josh Beckett, many expected Lester would step up and be the Sox’ No. 1 starter. However, Lester has walked 67 batters and his ERA is nearly 5.00.
Lester has lost his last three starts, though he lacked run support. On Sept. 16, Lester gave up three runs in seven innings against the Blue Jays and the Sox lost that game 5-0. On Sept. 21, he pitched seven innings and allowed four runs against the Orioles. The Sox lost that game 4-2. In his most recent start, last Wednesday, Lester allowed just three runs through six innings. The Sox lost that game 4-2. His last win was against the Mariners on Sept. 4 when he went six innings and allowed three runs.
The Yankees send David Phelps (4-4, 3.34) to the mound. Phelps began the season in the bullpen, appearing in middle relief. His last appearance was in relief against the Blue Jays last Thursday. He pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed two runs in a game the Yankees won 11-4. His last start was Sept. 19 in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Jays. He had a strong outing, going 6 2/3 innings allowing just one run and striking out six in a game the Yankees won 2-1.
|Wednesday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Jon Lester vs. Alex Cobb||09.26.12 at 9:05 am ET|
Jon Lester will make the start as the Red Sox face the Rays for the 17th and final time this season after losing the opening game of their two-game set. Still, the Red Sox already have clinched the season series, leading 9-7.
It’s been some time since Lester (9-13, 4.96 ERA) has faced the Rays this season. In fact, Lester, who has 21 starts against the Rays in his career, made just one start against them season — back on May 25. The one start did not go well. Lester lasted just four innings and gave up all seven runs in a 7-4 Tampa Bay victory. The four innings are tied for Lester’s shortest outing of the season while the seven runs are tied for the second most he’s surrendered all season.
Fortunately for Lester, his career numbers against Tampa are much better than he’s shown in 2012. However, the numbers are not as strong as would be expected against a Tampa team that’s never boasted an elite lineup. Lester is 10-7 in his 21 starts against the Rays but has a 4.29 ERA against them, the highest against any AL East opponent. He’s given up 15 home runs, which is tied for the most he’s given up against any opponent. On the flip side, Lester has more strikeouts against the Rays than any other team, although he has given up the second-most walks of any opponent. Also of note: The Rays’ 17 steals against Lester is more than double the next closest team’s total of eight.
Lester has a long track record against a solid portion of the Tampa Bay lineup and has performed well against the longest-tenured portion of the roster. As a group, the current Rays are hitting .222 against Lester with an OPS of .711. Only Carlos Pena, who has an OPS of 1.169 in 50 plate appearances, has done particularly well against Lester of any player who has faced the lefty more than 10 times. Meanwhile, some of the Rays’ younger bats, namely Desmond Jennings, Elliot Johnson and Matthew Joyce, have posted solid numbers against Lester in limited sample sizes.
Meanwhile, the last Tampa Bay starter the Red Sox lineup will face this season is Alex Cobb, who last pitched on Sept. 17 — also against the Red Sox. Cobb was effective in that outing, pitching six innings and giving up three runs. However, he would go on to take the loss in a 5-2 Red Sox win. Meanwhile, in his first start against the Red Sox back on May 25, Cobb was much more effective, giving up one run over five innings and earning the win in a 7-4 Tampa Bay victory.
The 24-year-old Cobb (9-9, 4.27) is finishing up his first full season in the majors after making nine starts last year and has shown flashes of brilliance as well as glaring inconsistencies. In his last six starts, Cobb has alternated outings in which he went deep into games and pitched well with starts when he couldn’t stay in the game long. Most notably, Cobb gave up eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 18 before throwing a four-hit complete game shutout five days later.
The current Red Sox lineup has seen very little of Cobb so far and has hit even less. As a group, the Red Sox have three hits in 34 at-bats against Cobb (an .088 average) and one extra-base hit (a two-run home run by Jacoby Ellsbury), which boils down to an atrocious .382 OPS. Only one member of the Red Sox lineup, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, has reached base on multiple occasions against Cobb, doing so on three walks.
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