All signs point to Lester as Sox Opening Day starter

All signs point to Lester as Sox Opening Day starter
March 17, 2013, 6:30 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – While manager John Farrell has not officially announced his Opening Day starter, anyone with a calendar and the ability to count up to five should be able to figure it out.
 
“It’d be obviously a great honor to be the Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox,” said Jon Lester. “You can’t beat that.”
 
Lester is on schedule to pitch Opening Day, April 1 in Yankee Stadium, as he has for the past two seasons.
 
Need more reasons to know that Jon Lester will be the Opening Day starter? How about the way he pitched Sunday afternoon against the Rays? Or the way he has pitched this spring?
 
Lester entered the game tied with the Rays’ Alex Cobb and Houston’s Philip Humber for the spring training lead with a 1.29 ERA. After the game Lester’s ERA stood at 0.90 thanks to his six perfect innings with six strikeouts against the Rays.
 
Anthony Carter, Joel Hanrahan, and Marco Duarte kept the perfect streak going until one out in the ninth, when Jason Bourgeois reached on an infield hit to second baseman Jonathan Diaz. Bourgeois advanced on Christian Vazquez's two-out passed ball and scored on Cole Figueroa's ground-rule double, as the Red Sox won, 5-1.
 
Cobb started for the Rays, going 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts, as his ERA climbed to 2.33. Jonny Gomes was 3-for-3 with four RBI, including two hits and two RBI off the right-handed Cobb.
 
Lester threw 79 pitches, 53 for strikes. In five Grapefruit League starts, spanning 20 innings, he has given up just two runs on six hits and four walks.
 
“Eighteen up, 18 down,” said manager John Farrell of Lester’s Sunday outing. “Better power of his stuff. I thought the one thing that stood out to me was the number of 3-2 pitches that he executed, whether it was a backdoor cutter to [Jose] Lobaton [striking out to end the fifth] or a fastball away to record an out. He pitched with a lot of confidence. Didn’t overthrow. But yet, at the same time, we’re seeing an increase in power from start to start. Very sharp, obviously.
 
“A little bit better velocity today than he’s shown, which you’d come to expect as you get deeper into camp and the innings total continue to climb. Just overall arm strength. But today four pitches for strikes. He was able to use his cutter to both sides of the plate. Just a very impressive outing.”
 
Lester worked from pitch to pitch, batter to batter at a brisk tempo, a point of emphasis for him this spring.
 
“I’m sure it’s helpful for the position players,” Lester said of his quickened pace. “For me, I’m just trying to take a lot of the guess work out of me, out of my brain. Just more or less getting on the rubber and figuring it out from there as opposed to walking around and second guessing myself. So it’s not really been an emphasis for me but it has at the same time. I’m trying to be better at it so my guys behind me are on their toes, in the game, maybe getting an advantage with the hitters as well.
 
“I think that’s, too, just feeling good. I know in the past where, whether you take last year or not, just when I’ve had kind of my struggling games, I’ve worked a little bit slower. You’re trying to figure some things out, slowing yourself down. A lot of times that’s the main thing because the game speeds up on you and you’re just trying to slow everything down. But with that being said, that's just been, the biggest thing for me is trying to take that guess work out of it. That’s been my process behind it.”
 
As his numbers indicate, it’s been working this spring.  But at this time of year, it’s not just about the numbers.
 
“I think just being able to see results helps,” Lester said. “When you’re working on things and you’re adjusting and you’re making those changes, if you’re out there and you're getting your butt beat in, you don’t believe in them. It’s hard to buy into them. Kind of like last year and the month of July. We’re working on the same things I'm still working on now, [but] not getting results. But I had to buy into them. I had to say, ‘Throw the results out the window and just keep buying into them.’ And my August and September were better.
 
“Now, kind of the same thing. When you’re able to work on those things and see the results and see things getting better, and see the  late swings on fastballs in, and see the takes on your breaking ball, yeah, you’re able to walk away and say, ‘OK, this stuff is really working. This is me.’”
 
This is Jon Lester. The Red Sox Opening Day starter.

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