Lester confident headed into 2014 season

Lester confident headed into 2014 season
February 17, 2014, 5:00 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago he came to camp fresh off the worst season he'd had in the big leagues, getting ready to play his for his third manager in as many years.
This year, he arrives as a World Series hero, having enjoyed a terrific bounceback seasons and an even better post-season, poised to sign the biggest contract a pitcher has ever signed with the Red Sox.
What a difference a year can make for Jon Lester.
Following a 2012 season that saw him post a career low in wins a career high in ERA, Lester almost had to start all over again. He tinkered with some faulty mechanics, and placed his trust in John Farrell, his former pitching coach, and Juan Nieves, his new pitching coach.
The results? A 15-win season, an ERA that dropped by more than a full run, and a newly-burnished reputation as one of the game's most  dependable post-season pitchers.
Last spring, he doubted himself. This spring, his confidence has been shot sky-high.
"I think obviously (you're more confident),'' he said. "You're playing on the biggest stage, at the biggest time of the year. To go out there and  perform and be successful, I think that can boost you, especially those days when you're not feeling so good. To do it on that stage, absolutely, it boosts your confidence going into the next year.''
This spring, instead of trying to discover what went wrong and how to fix it, Lester can focus on just continuing to do what he did.
"It's obviously a different mindset,'' he said. "You don't have that added stress of an off-season (where you're) trying to figure a lot of things out. I liked where I was at the end of the year -- mechanically, physically, I felt great. Now, it's just a matter of getting ready, whereas last year was kind of more trying to fix things and kind of righting the ship, get back to being the Red Sox and winning and all that.''
Though he dominated in the post-season, going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five post-season starts, Lester doesn't necessarily view himself any differently.
"I wouldn't put it that way,'' he said. "I felt like I was a pretty good pitcher before that. But going into the post-season, we all as kids want to be that guy -- the guy that goes into the playoffs and puts up good starts and good numbers and all that.''
Lester pitched Game 1 of the ALDS, and the Red Sox won that. He started Game 1 of the ALCS, and though he pitched well enough to win (one run in 6 1/3 innings), the Sox lost. He started Game 1 of the World Series, and the Sox won that, too.
"I think that was probably that most satisfying thing,'' he said, "that I was able to do that for my teammates. When we needed to get off on the right foot and set the tone, I was able to do that. But I don't consider myself a better pitcher (than before); I (just) feel good about myself and where I'm at.''
The Sox nearly played into November last fall, meaning that Lester and others had a much shorter off-season. Before he knew it, it was time to get back to work.
As such, he cut back on his usual off-season conditioning and training, taking a slower approach.
"Just because of that added workload,'' he said, "I didn't want to be ready to go when I got here. I wanted to build up and get ready for that first game, as opposed to the last couple of year, where I could almost throw a simulated game or be in a game, first day. I think there's times and places for that and this year was definitely not one of them.''