Lester feels strong after outing
Despite subpar results, left-hander pleased by progress
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Despite what was clearly the poorest outing of his Triple-A rehab on Saturday night, lefty Jon Lester said he feels better now than at any point before he went on the disabled list because of cancer last season.
And, remember, Lester was 7-2 with the Red Sox in 2006.
"I think I'm better than I was last year, at any time," Lester said after lasting just 2 2/3 innings and giving up three runs in Pawtucket's 6-2 loss to Ottawa. "From February 1 'til whenever I was put on the DL [Aug. 28] or whatever, nothing felt right. Nothing felt like it clicked. Everything felt like it was a struggle. This year, I feel real good ... command, up until tonight, has been good, walks have been down and pitch counts have been down, so, tonight's one of those fluke things -- just got to get better and move on."
The next step in moving on is a Thursday night start against Richmond -- Lester's poor outing Saturday night apparently did not a factor in any decision the Red Sox might make on their young pitcher.
"I have no idea, no idea," Lester said when asked when he might be called up. "It's their decision. I don't think this outing has any effect on the future. They know how I can pitch and what I have done up to this point, so ... right now they don't have any roster spots, so it's obviously not an easy situation. [Julian] Tavarez and the other four guys up there, they've been pitching well. They're winning and doing well right now so Ill just do what I can down here and hopefully get the call eventually, somewhere down the road."
With club owners John Henry and Tom Werner looking on, Lester said he had "one of those nights" all pitchers have over the course of a baseball season. He was off -- not by a lot, but by enough to produce bad results.
Coming off a seven-inning, complete-game effort at Norfolk, Lester needed only 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning, but said even that "was a little off." And added "it snowballed from there." He would throw 59 pitches over the next 1 2/3, his record falling to 1-2 and his ERA going from 1.26 to 2.01. Overall, he threw 70 pitches, including 42 for strikes.
He got the first two batters in the second inning -- the second on a line drive to second baseman Joe McEwing -- but a double by Jim Rushord, and RBI single by Danny Sandoval. Lester walked Joey Hammond but got out of further trouble.
After a 38-pitch second inning that was actually prolonged on what appeared to be a questionable foul tip that could have ended the frame, Lester walked Joe Thurston to start the third but then got a double play ball. Gary Burnham and Dusty Wathan then singled and Rushford walked before Sandoval chased Lester with a two-run single.
PawSox manager Ron Johnson, who thought Lester threw the ball well, but was "a tick off," came out to make the pitching change and Lester didn't like it.
"I had to hide from him for two innings," the manager said. Lester smiled when asked about it, saying, "I don't want to come out of a game, regardless of how good or bad I'm doing."
For Johnson, who said he still hasn't had an indication from the big club when Lester might be called up, the decision was whether to get Lester out of the game or let him try to get through four innings and about 100 pitches. Johnson also thought Lester would get a lot out of a night like this because his rehab has been working smoothly and it's not a bad thing for a guy to have to deal with adversity."
"He hasn't scuffled at all," the manager said. "Just sit back and watch in about four days, the value of this ... I'd hate to be the other team [Thursday], that's just the way I feel about this guy."
Henry and Werner took advantage of the evening by visiting with the fans and signing autographs and visiting the PawSox clubhouse and meeting club personnel befor the game. They then spent the game in owner Ben Mondor's box.
Mike Shalin is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.