|Jon Lester’s performance wasn’t dominant, but it was plenty good enough||04.01.13 at 6:45 pm ET|
NEW YORK ‘ John Farrell described Jon Lester‘s outing as ‘a good starting point.’ That, along with the Red Sox‘ 8-2 win over the Yankees Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, is good enough for the manager ‘¦ and the pitcher.
‘It’s big, obviously a lot nicer than last couple of years to be on top 1-0 instead of going through a whole road trip without a win again,’ said Lester, citing the Red Sox’ 1-5 start to begin the 2012 season. ‘Big for us to come in here and, like I talked about yesterday, get on a roll and set the tone early for us.’
Lester didn’t display the dominance of a spring training that included giving up just two earned runs in 24 regulation innings, striking out 20 and walking just four. But, other than a rocky, two-run fourth inning, the lefty did resemble the pitcher of 2008-2011, rather than ‘12.
The Red Sox’ starter finished his first outing of the season allowing two runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking two over five innings.
‘I felt good. I had good fastball command, good cutter today. Just really didn’t have anything else,’ Lester said. ‘Took me until the fifth inning to get a feel for a curveball or a changeup, and just really had to battle with my fastball and cutter. With that being said, I’m really pleased with the outcome with those pitches. It was good.’
Lester finished throwing 96 pitches (63 strikes), in large part due to a 34-pitch fourth inning. It was in that frame the lefty started showing some cracks.
The Yankees led off the fourth with a Kevin Youkilis double, with was followed with Vernon Wells’ walk. The hosts loaded the bases on Ichiro Suzuki‘s single. Then, after a Jayson Nix strikeout, Francisco Cervelli ripped a single down the left field line, plating a pair to cut the Red Sox’ lead in half.
To Lester’s credit, he came back and got Brett Gardner to line out to right field for the inning’s final out before getting two more strikeouts in a scoreless fifth.
‘With the exception of that fourth inning, where he threw 34 pitches, I thought he came out and command the strike zone down,’ Farrell said. ‘But the lengthy inning, I thought, started to catch up to him a little bit, and after 96-plus pitches after five I felt like it was time to turn the game over to the bullpen. I thought Jon did bend, but didn’t break in that two-run inning. I think more than anything it was a good starting point for him.’
Lester’s catcher, Jarrod Saltalmacchia, agreed with his manager’s assessment, stressing the importance of getting the team’s ace out on the right foot.
‘He looked good,’ Saltalamacchia said of Lester, who didn’t get a win in ‘12 until his fourth start of the season. ‘Real downward angle with his fastball, mixing in the offspeed stuff. Made some big pitches when he needed to. But all in all, just staying down, keeping it aggressive ‘¦ and off balance.
‘I mean it’s important to all of us, not just Jon. We all feel for him. We all feel for what he’s been through the past year and we know that’s not him. We know that he’s the guy you saw today. It’s nice to see him out there just throwing like he always has.’
The pitching matchup could be any Red Sox-Yankees Opening Day from the last few years, but nearly everywhere else on the field, baseball’s most famous rivals are in unfamiliar situations as the 2013 season opens.
Jon Lester will get the ball on Opening Day for the third consecutive time, his first chance to redeem himself after posting a 4.82 ERA in 2012. He had a strong spring, with a 0.75 ERA and an 0.50 WHIP to show for it. In 24 innings, he struck out 20 batters and allowed eight hits and four walks.
Opposing Lester will be CC Sabathia, one of the only pieces of the Yankees roster that seems stable as the season begins. Sabathia recorded a 3.34 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 200 innings last year, the seventh time in his career and the fourth in a row that he’s thrown at least 200 innings.
Sabathia has had some kinks to work out this spring after having surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. He pitched 10 innings, given up 14 hits and four walks while posting a 5.40 ERA. He’s said there are no concerns about lingering pain or issues with his elbow.
The team behind him will look very different than it did in October, as Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez all will miss Opening Day. The Yankees will lean on Robinson Cano, who’s heading into the final year of his contract in New York.
Lester might be relieved to avoid facing Jeter, who has a .333 average and a .397 OBP against him in 69 plate appearances. He’s more familiar with Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixeira and Granderson than the players who will take their places, so it’s harder to gauge how he might perform against the lineup he sees. In 13 starts against the Yankees in New York, he’s 7-2.
Last time Lester faced the Yankees, on Oct. 2, the Red Sox fell 4-3 when Raul Ibanez drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Lester went five innings, allowing eight hits and one unearned run.
|Jon Lester talks Opening Day start, successful spring training||03.27.13 at 4:07 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘ After throwing four scoreless innings in his final spring training outing, Jon Lester relayed his excitement over being named Opening Day starter for a third straight season.
‘All the words ‘ honor, privilege ‘ all of that, especially for this organization, to be named that,’ he said. ‘I take it with great pride, and I’ll go out thee and give it a good start and hopefully get this team off to a good start this season.’
With appearance against the Marlins at JetBlue Park Wednesday ‘ in which he allowed two hits while striking out four and not walking a batter ‘ Lester lowered his spring training ERA to 0.75.
It was has been two months of encouragement for the lefty, who talked about the specific alterations he has made from last season.
“Stand tall. It sounds simple. It really does. It sounds easy. For whatever reason, it morphed through 2011 into 2012, and I fell into some bad habits and couldn’t get myself out of them until the middle of last year,’ he said. ‘I felt like we made a lot of adjustments, and that was the beginning to this year, right after the All-Star break, we finally overhauled everything and got back to being me, using my frame. I was pitching like a guy who was 5-10 as opposed to 6-4. It makes a big difference on the way the ball comes in the zone. Having good results, when you’re making adjustments like that, always help.
‘When you’re battling through some tough times and not getting results, it’s hard to buy into them, but I had to buy into it from day one and have been able to do that and get good results this spring.”
Lester finishes his spring having pitched a total of 30 innings (including one minor-league game), striking out 20 and walking four.
‘I think in spring, you could look at it both ways,’ he said. ‘You can look at is as, OK, I’m hitting my stride at the right time. I’m finally clicking and things are going good. Like I’ve said after each one, it’s good to have good results. It reinforces all the work you put into it and the adjustments and you see the swings at certain pitches and it’s like, ‘Man, this is me.’ With that being said, there’s still going to be times where you get waffled. That’s just part of being a pitcher. I think those times will be few and far between.’
While the solid start was nothing new, the revelation that Lester would be the starter on April 1 was.
It has been long assumed that Lester would be called on to make the Opening Day start. But it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that the suspense was cut short.
‘I had to get here a little early, earlier than normal for a start day,’ he said. ‘[Red Sox manager John Farrell] wanted to meet with me before he met with y’all. This morning. Officially. Finally. It was good.’
Lester, who becomes the first Red Sox pitcher to start three straight openers since Pedro Martinez‘ run of seven straight, turned in a solid Opening Day outing against Detroit last season. The lefty only allowed one run over seven innings in the Red Sox’ loss.
The start against the Tigers was a vast improvement over his initial Opening Day appearance, in which he took the loss in Texas, having surrendered five runs over five innings.
‘The hardest part of Opening Day, I would say, is just all the hoopla,’ Lester said. ‘All the stuff leading up to first pitch. Once the first pitch is there, it’s the same game. I think that goes back to guys first start in the playoffs, first start in the World Series. It’s just a lot of stuff that builds up to that first pitch. Once you get out there and the quicker you realize, OK, this is just like five days ago in Fort Myers, only it means something, the easier it is to kind of get through that. I think the first one was the hardest. Last year was a lot more normal as far as building up to a start for me.’
|Jon Lester tabbed as Opening Day starter||at 10:02 am ET|
“He was probably targeted all along,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But at the same time, didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of spring training for every pitcher.”
Lester will become the first Red Sox pitcher to start Opening Day three years in a row since Pedro Martinez started seven straight from 1998-2004.
Lester also spoke about the honor earlier this month and did not downplay it. He allowed one run over seven innings last year in Detroit, after giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings vs. the Rangers the year before.
“It’s a big deal. Don’t let anybody ever say it’s not a big deal, because it is a big deal,” he said. “At the same time, you have to always treat it as just a normal game, and I think I was able to do that a little bit better last year. The first year everything is new. It’s just like your first playoff game, where you think you have to do more because it’s a different part of the year and you’re fighting for something a little more important. You’re thinking, ‘I have to throw harder. I have to hit my spot better.’ You do the same thing you do during the season. All the simple things. It’s the same game. I think that’s what helped me last year.”
The Red Sox open the 2013 season Monday at Yankee Stadium. Lester is 7-2 with a 3.46 ERA in the Bronx.
|Jon Lester after six perfect innings: ‘This is me’||03.17.13 at 6:46 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester has delivered steady, promising results all spring. But on Sunday, he showed another gear over the course of six perfect innings against the Rays in a 5-1 Red Sox Grapefruit League victory at JetBlue Park.
The left-hander struck out six and elicited four ground ball outs on a day when he showed good fastball command and an excellent curveball that he was able to throw for both called strikes and swings and misses, while also using his cutter on both sides of the plate. Lester made 79 pitches, of which 53 were strikes.
The necessary caveats, of course, are that spring results mean little in predicting how a player will do once the regular season begins. Still, Lester’s performance through five spring starts spanning 20 innings has been hard to ignore. He’s permitted just two runs (0.90 ERA) on six hits this spring while walking four (1.8 per nine innings) and striking out 16 (7.2 per nine).
But more important than the numbers has been the fact that Lester has looked more like himself on the mound — a pitcher who’s able to use his 6-foot-5 frame to create considerable downhill leverage with an over-the-top delivery that allows him both to locate the ball and to channel his power towards home plate, as opposed to last year, when his delivery would swing open and force him across his body, leading to diminished stuff.
This spring has been different. Lester looks like a pitcher who has fixed some of the mechanical issues that led to inconsistent stuff and results last year, and with a commitment to working faster, he’s also getting on the mound and attacking his opponents, keeping them on the defensive.
“His posture is getting better. He’s getting more angle on the ball. I know those are some things he’s working on,” said catcher David Ross. “I definitely see a consistent downhill plane on his ball when it gets flat it looks better to the hitter. His stuff is so good he can get away with it sometimes. But he will be more consistent and roll through the lineup and be a little easier, in my opinion, to get that good posture and get on a downhill plane. I think that’s the main thing he’s been working on.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Mike Napoli receives a scare; Jon Lester marches toward Opening Day||03.11.13 at 4:47 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. ‘ When Mike Napoli was hit on the inside of the left wrist by a Kevin Slowey fastball in the third inning of the Red Sox‘ game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, one fan in attendance took particular notice.
‘Oooh!’ exclaimed Red Sox principal owner John Henry, taking one step forward in anticipation as Napoli was checked by the training staff.
A few minutes, all was well, with Napoli staying in the game and Henry calmly returning to his seat.
‘I’m fine,’ the first baseman said after leaving the game in what turned into an 8-7 Marlins win over the Red Sox. ‘Any time you hit around your hand area, it doesn’t take much for something to go wrong. At first it was a little numb and then I kind of got feeling back into it.’
‘That’s the last thing you want, especially in the spring, hitting a guy near the hand,” Slowey said. “The pitch just came back. It’s frustrating. That’s certainly not what you want to do.”
Napoli not only remained in the game, but continued to impress while doing so.
The former catcher held is own at first base once again, while adding a walk in two plate appearances. Napoli is hitting .364 with a 1.400 OPS.
Perhaps most important was taking another step toward feeling like a full-time first baseman.
‘Every day I come to the park and I don’t even think about catching,’ he said. ‘I don’t think about it anymore. I’ve let it go.’
He added, ‘I think I’m comfortable now. Before I was iffy. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t really know what I was doing over there. It’s a lot better.’
– Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell insinuated Jon Lester would be his Opening Day starter, saying he wasn’t ready to name his pitcher for April 1, but judging by the set-up of the rotation it should be easy to figure out.
After his five-inning outing ‘ in which he gave up one run on three hits while striking out four and not walking a batter ‘ Lester wouldn’t reveal if plans had been set in motion for his third straight Opening Day start.
When told after his appearance that he had ‘sort of’ been identified as the starter in the opener, Lester days, ‘Have I? Sort of? ‘¦ Oh, well, I haven’t even figured it out so I’m glad he told you guys that. I don’t look that far ahead yet.’
Lester continued to perform like he was worthy of a start in the first regular season game, still giving off the image of an ace.
He still, however, sees room for improvement.
‘The last two I don’t think have been as good as the first two as far as from pitch one to the end. I don’t know if this is because I’m throwing more pitches or what,’ said Lester, who threw 54 pitches (38 strikes). ‘I feel like early on today, I was a little out of synch, even in the second but I was able to correct everything and get back to where I needed to be. But it’s coming, it’s a work in progress, it’s getting better as far as being a little more consistent, when I get into the game I have to be more mindful of the checkpoints we have in place and get back to those a little more quickly then I’m doing now.
‘I feel pretty good, but I don’t want to have everything clicking right now, I kind of want to build it up that first start and hopefully kind of roll it over into there and get it going. I feel good, that’s the main thing, everything has been good physically, just some minor things in game that I need to improve on but I’ve been feeling pretty good.’
– The legend of Jackie Bradley Jr. continues.
The outfielder led off the game with a first-pitch home run, and finished the afternoon by going 3-for-4. It boosts his batting average to .519 (14-for-27) for the spring.
‘As he’s shown all camp, right-handed pitching, left-handed pitching, his balance at the plate, he stays inside the ball,’ Farrell said. ‘We’re seeing as we get deeper into camp pitchers are getting their timing. They’re repeating their delivery and making good pitches, and he’s handled many types of guys. He’s had a strong camp.
– Rubby De La Rosa had a rough outing, walking four while allowing five runs and two hits in just 2/3 innings.
It was the second rocky appearance by the Sox’ pitching prospect, who allowed three runs over two innings against Pittsburgh last Wednesday.
‘I think going back to the last outing and today again, it looks like he’s overthrown,’ Farrell said of De La Rosa. ‘His fastball command has been erratic. He’s always having to fight his way back into the count. Creating a little bit of a zone issue. Creating traffic with some bases on balls. But today it showed up a little bit more than the other day. Just overthrowing and not trusting his stuff as he should.’
– The Red Sox’ loss came after they had built a 7-1 lead after seven innings. The final blow came courtesy Miami’s Christian Yelich, who claimed a walk-off, two-run blast against Sox’ reliever Chris Carpenter.
A highlight for the Red Sox was Will Middlebrooks’ first home run of the spring, a two-run blast over the left field fence in the seventh inning.
|Red Sox notes: Jon Lester delivers more of the same (in a good way) in latest outing||03.06.13 at 7:25 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The pitcher looks familiar.
Once again, Jon Lester gave off the same impression he had consistently delivered prior to the 2012 season, tossing four solid innings against the Pirates Wednesday at JetBlue Park. The Red Sox may have come away with a 9-3 loss to Pittsburgh, but it was the starter’s one-run, two-hit performance that proved most important.
“Good four innings of work today,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I thought he used his curveball a little bit more today than he had in the previous two outings, part by design, part by some of the situations that arose. He might not have been as sharp as the last time out, but still 52 pitches in four innings, a good day of work for him.”
Lester has now pitched nine innings (3 outings), just the one run on three hits, striking out six and walking four.
“From each work session, to what he’s able to do inside the game,” Farrell said of Lester. “I think today showed the ability to make some adjustments from pitch to pitch even with the back to back walks in the one inning. I think he’s more in tune with his delivery mechanics that allows him to make those adjustments.”
– Brock Holt got his first-ever taste of playing first base as a professional Wednesday, handling the position well. The 24-year-old (who still has options) went 0-for-2 with a walk and is now 5-for-20 (.25o) with two walks.
Prior to this season, Holt — who came over to the Red Sox in their trade with Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan — had only played second base and shortstop in pro ball.
“Through the work that he’s done in early work, he’s shown the ability to adjust to different angles and different reads,” Farrell said. “You’ve got to the long hop, short hop that’s going to become more readily executed at that position. He’s a good athlete and he’s shown a lot of good aptitude.”
There was also some talk of Holt playing some outfield, although Farrell explained that is on the back-burner while the Texas native works at third.
– A couple of pitchers who have created some buzz in camp — Steven Wright and Rubby De La Rosa — experienced tough outings against the Pirates.
Wright allowed five runs on five hits and three walks over two innings, while De La Rosa followed up with a two-inning, three-run outing.
“If you look at the bigger picture he’s at the early stages of trying to perfect this pitch, one which is an imperfect pitch,” Farrell said of the knuckleballer, Wright. “That will be a constant pursuit. With Wake being here and the amount they can converse back and forth ‘¦ but at the same time, he’s got to learn that pitching in between the lines and not just on the side. That’s part of his development.”
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