Improvements finally pay off for Lester

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Improvements finally pay off for Lester

CHICAGO -- Thanks to some poor run support and, at times, his own inability to preserve leads, it had been almost a month since Jon Lester picked up a win.

For the starter considered to the be the No. 1 pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, three wins in his first 13 outings wasn't good enough.

Saturday night, Lester took a step to address that, shutting out the Chicago Cubs for six innings before stumbling some in the seventh, allowing a three-run homer to Luis Valbuena.

That made things tighter for the Sox, turning a 4-0 cushion into a one-run nailbiter, but thanks to some nice work turned in by the bullpen, the Sox held off the Cubs, 4-3, giving Lester his first victory since May 18.

"I threw 102 pitches and one was a mistake,'' said Lester, a reference to Valbuena's three-run shot. "You look at the hits they had a couple of flares to right...I think they had three infield hits. I've got to take that positive from the bad contact.

"One squared-up ball give them three runs. I have to keep executing.''

Lester had a marathon 10-pitch at-bat against Welington Castillo, whom he walked immediately before giving up the three-run homer. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia thought the Sox had Castillo struck out on a 1-and-2 changeup, and judging from the pitcher's body language, so did Lester himself.

Lester credits an improved cutter in his last few outings, which has given him another out pitch, one hitters sometimes chase out of the zone. He had eight strikeouts Saturday, and his last four outings, he's fanned 29 -- and walked just four -- over 26 13 innings.

"I haven't been walking guys,'' said Lester. "I've been giving up more hits, but I think that's the nature of the beast when you're around the zone more. But I'll take the hits that I gave up tonight -- obviously, with the exception of one.''

Pedro Martinez tells WEEI Ortiz will make comeback this season

Pedro Martinez tells WEEI Ortiz will make comeback this season

Never say never?

While Red Sox officials said at the team's annual Winter Weekend at Foxwoods on Saturday that they'd be traveling to the Dominican Republic to talk to David Ortiz about a role with the team, Pedro Martinez told WEEI he sees Big Papi returning to his old role - designated hitter - this season.

CSN's Trenni Kusnierek and WEEI's John Tomase talked to Martinez on their show Saturday at Foxwoods and Martinez said his old teammate would be making a comeback despite the long, emotional farewell tour last season. 

For the full interview with Martinez, click here.

Red Sox executives Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and Dave Dombrowski made no mention of Ortiz returning as a player when talking about their Dominican trip. Ortiz has repeatedly said he is going to stay retired. 

Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

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Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- While there’s a deal of anticipation going into Spring training with the four Killer B’s, David Price and Pablo Sandoval’s shot at redemption and Rick Porcello looking to be something similar to his 2016 self, there’s one name that trumps them all.

Chris Sale.

The lankly lefty received an ovation from fans at the Friday night Town Hall, kicking off Red Sox Winter Weekend. With his consistent success, there’s reason to be excited.

But there’s also reason for apprehension given the way Sale’s departure from Chicago was depicted. But he’s made sure to clear the air.

“I wouldn’t say . . . ya know . . . I loved my time in Chicago,” Sale said when asked if it was time to leave the Windy City. “My best baseball memories are there [and] will be there forever. I love the city; I love the people in the organization.

“It was time for both sides to do something different, I guess. I talked to (White Sox Senior V.P.) Rick on the phone, I talked to (White Sox pitching coach Don) Coop (Cooper). We’re all cool, it’s fine. We understand where both of us are, it happens in baseball, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chicago.”

He didn’t seem irritated discussing the issue, and certainly wasn’t timid -- we all know that’s not in his DNA.

He genuinely seems excited to deal with the large sum of Sox fans and to call a new place home -- in a city his wife’s fond of no less.

But ultimately, he’s focused on winning, nothing else.

“Every time I’m out there it’s gonna be all I got,” Sale said. "Every time, no matter what. Can promise you that.”