3/21/2014 6:55 P.M. ET
Lester tunes up, builds arm strength in sharp outing
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- As a hitter on an opposing team, A.J. Pierzynski was quite familiar with Jon Lester. However, as the new everyday catcher for the Red Sox, Pierzynski is discovering he has a lot to learn about his current team's ace left-hander.
"I didn't know he's as competitive as he is -- he's got a little [Jake] Peavy in him, out there yelling at himself on the mound," Pierzynski said Friday after Lester had blanked the Phillies on four hits over the first 5 2/3 innings and Pierzynski had doubled home both of the Red Sox runs in a 2-2 tie in 10 innings.
Lester, who will make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start on March 31 in Baltimore against the Orioles, struck out five and walked one. The 30-year-old lefty has now struck out 14 batters in 12 2/3 spring innings and has a spring ERA of 0.71.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Pierzynski said. "He made pitches when he had to. He throws the ball over the plate."
"He went out and pitched, he didn't overexert himself," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I thought he used his fastball very well."
"I felt good, I got in rhythm a little earlier than I did last time," Lester said. "I still don't have a good feel for my breaking ball, but that will come. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction.
"I think the plan is to keep building my arm up," the lefty continued. "I don't want to go into the first start [of the regular season] only being able to throw 85 or 90 pitches."
According to Farrell, Lester was slated to throw 80-85 pitches against the Phillies on Friday. He threw 81.
"He'll throw 95-100 in his last outing," Farrell said. "We'll continue to build up the number of pitches."
Lester is scheduled to make his final spring start on Wednesday when the Red Sox play the Orioles, their Opening Day opponent.
Farrell said Friday that the Red Sox haven't decided whether Lester will start that Grapefruit League game or pitch in a Minor League camp game.
Only Adam Wainwright (276) and Clayton Kershaw (259) threw more combined innings than Lester (248) did last year. Lester's 4,083 pitches between the regular season and postseason were the most in baseball.
Lester, who is entering the final year of his contract, said negotiations are continuing on an extension that would keep him in a Red Sox uniform.
"I think we're headed in the right direction," he said. "We're not in the red zone, but we've had good dialogue. As of right now we just have to keep hashing it out."
Battling for roster spot, Bradley sees quiet day
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A year ago, when Jackie Bradley Jr. faced Phillies ace Cliff Lee in Spring Training, he belted a homer over the left-center-field fence at Bright House Field in his first at-bat -- a three-run blast that may have clinched Bradley's spot on the Opening Day squad last year.
On Friday, Bradley, who this spring is battling Grady Sizemore for the center-field job and a place on the season-opening roster, started in center field and went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .182.
Meanwhile, told that scouts have said that Sizemore, who is batting .360 this spring, doesn't look like a guy who hasn't played organized ball in two years, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, "I totally agree.
"It's pretty amazing, given the time missed. It just speaks to his athleticism and the low-maintenance swing."
However, the Red Sox remain concerned about Sizemore's durability. Assuming he makes the team, they may limit him to a "recommended number of games played per week," at least in the beginning.
"To say we have a read on his durability, that's premature," Farrell said. "I think we need to get through this coming week first."
That is why the 23-year-old Bradley, who was the surprise of camp last spring when he batted .419 to earn a spot in the Opening Day lineup despite having never played above Double-A, remains very much in the center-field picture.
Sizemore did not make the trip on Friday. He is scheduled to appear in a Minor League game on Saturday and then start in games on Sunday and Monday. That will be the first time he has played three games in a row this spring.
"At-bats, innings played, back-to-back games -- we have a very detailed plan mapped out that we're following," the Red Sox manager said. "But every piece of feedback from the medical staff has been positive.
"The most encouraging thing is he hasn't hit the proverbial wall where we're bumped up against the limit and now we have to pull back. We haven't reached that yet which is all positive. We have every reason to believe he's a likely candidate to become an everyday player with durability on his side at some point.
"We're looking to put the best team on the field every night with the intent of trying to win every game. So if rest is built into the scenario, we'll factor in everything at our disposal."
Sent down to Triple-A for more seasoning last year, Bradley batted .189 in four Major League callups.
Red Sox reserving judgment with Hill
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Left-handed reliever Rich Hill worked a scoreless relief appearance Friday. And, although the Red Sox made a couple of strange plays in the field behind him, Hill remains unscored upon after three outings this spring.
The 33-year-old Hill, who signed a Minor League contract with the Red Sox in January, was late in reporting to camp because of the death of his newborn son.
Although it appears unlikely he will catch up in time to make the Opening Day roster, he could definitely be a factor in the Red Sox bullpen as the season progresses.
"He's come through a personal tragedy," manager John Farrell said. "We just want him to get comfortable.
"He came into camp, and he was in the bullpen throwing powerful and he's probably going through a dead-arm period trying to ramp up his innings which you fully expect starting late. So we're reserving some judgment there."
Hill pitched for the Red Sox from 2010-12, but was limited by an array of injuries. He spent last season with the Cleveland Indians, where he was 1-2 with a 6.48 ERA in 63 games.
• The Red Sox asked permission to use a designated hitter on Friday, but the Phillies, as is their right as the home team, declined.
"These situations are exchanged early in camp, almost at the beginning of the schedule," Farrell said. "I think there was a willingness if [David] Ortiz was on the trip. A manager is going to look at his own team, he knows what his needs are. We're the visiting team, so we'll play by the rules."
As a result, Lester took his first swings of the spring. He went 0-for-2, striking out and laying down a bunt.
"At least I got it down," joked Lester, who is not known for his prowess with a bat.
Farrell said the Red Sox will be allowed to employ a DH when they play the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Saturday.
• Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow threw "20 pitches of live batting practice with good intensity," Friday morning, Farrell said, and is "on tap for Monday," when he will make his first spring appearance.
Asked if Breslow is still on track to make the Opening Day roster, Farrell said, "It's premature to answer that.
"Be realistic and look at him in those three outings next week. I think he's following a path ahead of last year. Getting to game speed takes a while, and he's getting there."
• Farrell, his coaching staff and nine of the players who made the two-hour trip to Clearwater on Friday remained overnight at a Disney World area hotel Friday night while the rest of the squad bussed back to Fort Myers, Fla., after the game.
Those who remained will be joined for Saturday's game against the Braves by a fresh group of players, including Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino and Xander Bogaerts.
• The Phillies and Red Sox attracted a Bright House Field record crowd of 11,210 Friday.
• John Lackey will start Saturday's game against the Braves. Right-handers Dalier Hinojosa and Francisco Cordero and lefty Tommy Layne are also scheduled to pitch.
• With Opening Day now just 10 days away, Farrell has indicated the Red Sox regular-season starting lineup will be on the field fairly regularly next week.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.