Lester, Francona happy with effort
Sox lefty building confidence as he prepares for '08 season
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Lester picked up his first Grapefruit League victory on Saturday, and said he felt "pretty good" after the Red Sox beat the Reds, 16-6, at City of Palms Park.
"It's kind of at that point of spring where you body is getting used to throwing again and getting used to pitches and all that," said Lester, who allowed three runs on four hits, struck out three and walked one in four innings. "But I feel all right. I feel like every start, I've gotten better in some areas and [I'll] just keep building and getting stronger."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was also pleased with Lester's performance.
"[It was] pretty good," Francona said. "I know I say it every day, but its still the middle of Spring Training. But it's nice to let him get back there with [catcher] Jason [Varitek], get to work a little bit. ... We're tying to get close to the season, use some things, sequences that will be more realistic as the season progresses. I think he's staying in his delivery real well. His presence out there, he looks like a Major League pitcher.
Lester threw 70 pitches in Saturday's outing, 40 for strikes.
"They're a good team with just putting the bat on the ball," Lester said of the Reds. "They're fighting off a lot of good pitches, and that was the most frustrating part, because I was making good pitches and not getting the ground ball or the fly ball or swing-and-miss. Just getting a lot of foul balls and racking up that pitch count. I was pretty happy with how my command was."
Lester, who is working with an additional 25 pounds this spring after cancer treatment before the 2007 season took its toll, said he is physically where he needs to be at this point in the spring.
"My body's coming back pretty good and just kind of hit a little wall here after my start against the Mets [on Monday]," he said. "It's starting to feel better and hopefully it will carry over and now we can just build from here."
Lester said after his start against the Mets, when he went four scoreless innings, giving up two hits and a walk, striking out five -- he felt a general fatigue.
"You just don't really have energy [and] just kind of take a step backwards," he said. "It's kind of hard to explain. But you just don't feel like your body wants to cooperate with you. But it's that point in Spring Training. Everybody goes through it at some point. Some people it's their legs. Some people it's their arms. It just varies from person to person, and mine just happened to be my whole body. So I feel a lot better today. It feels a lot better than [Friday] did. I was happy with that just the way I bounced back, but should be fine from here on out."
Lester said his confidence is growing with each start.
"It's starting to get a lot better," he said. "I don't really realize what I can throw, what I can do on the mound. I'm starting to build confidence every start and getting better. ... Hopefully the season will be good and [I'll] rack up a lot of wins."
With Curt Schilling out indefinitely with a right shoulder injury, Josh Beckett dealing with an ailing back and Daisuke Matsuzaka's availability uncertain (although his wife gave birth to the couple's second child Saturday, which may make the pitcher's availability more likely), there is a possibility Lester could be the Opening Day starter against the A's in Tokyo on March 25.
"That'd be great," said Lester, who started the Sox's last game of 2007, the Game 4 World Series clincher against the Rockies. "It'd definitely be a lot of fun -- the atmosphere. It's kind of unfortunate the way you get to be that starter, but whatever they tell me to do, I'm there and I'll pitch."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.