Lester pleased with 'smooth, crisp' spring

Lester pleased with 'smooth, crisp' spring
March 27, 2013, 7:00 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After being officially named the Opening Day starter before Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, left-hander Jon Lester went out and pitched four scoreless innings, giving up two hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

Lester was not involved in the decision, a 5-1 loss.

The outing wrapped up a solid spring for Lester. In six spring outings, spanning 24 innings, Lester allowed just two runs on eight hits and four walks with 20 strikeouts, for an ERA of 0.75. His spring, he said, could not have gone much better.

“It’s been a real good spring for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s been sharp. He’s been consistent. Today was no different. Multiple pitches for strikes. He’d had the benefit of pitching against this club previous so I think he had some understanding of their aggressiveness. And once again, very much in control. Made some quality pitches on the rare occasion when he did get behind in the count. But a very good spring for Jon.”

For Lester, this spring went about as well as he could have hoped for.

“It’s been great,” Lester said. “From not just on a pitching aspect. I would say from just day one as far as PFPs, the meetings, to everything. It’s just been smooth. It’s been crisp. A lot of energy from the guys. It’s been a good spring all around, I think, for everybody.”

The main reason for Lester has been his improved mechanics. “Everything,” he said, has come from that.

“Just staying tall,” he said. “It sounds simple, it really does, it sounds easy. For whatever reason it kind of morphed through 2011 into 2012 and just fell into some bad habits and couldn’t really dig myself out of them until middle of last year. I felt like we made a lot of adjustments and that was kind of the beginning to this year, right after the All-Star break, finally just over hauled everything and got back to being me, using my frame. I was pitching like a guy that’s 5-10 as opposed to 6-4. It makes a big difference in the way the ball comes in the zone. Results, I’ve said early on, obviously have good results when you’re making adjustments like that always help. When you’re battling through some tough times and a not good result it’s hard to buy into them but just had to buy into it from day one and been able to do that and get good results this spring.”

The difference, when he looks at video of himself on the mound now compared to last season, is easy to see.

“Absolutely,” he said. “You put it side by side and, really anybody that doesn’t know a thing about baseball could [see it]. It’s immediate. It’s really bad. It's not good position to be in. It’s not something, I don’t even know how the theory of me getting there worked out in my head. I don’t know, but it wasn’t good and finally getting back to being me.”

Against the Marlins, Lester was just fine-tuning his pitches, preparing for his next outing.

“Just really tuning up,” Lester said. “That’s really the main thing. There’s still, obviously, there’s first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of guys and I wanted to flip some curveballs and some changeups in there early in the count. We didn’t get to the changeup as much as the curveball but the main thing is just get a good warm-up, get stretched out, and sounds bad to get through it but that’s really what you want to do especially with these last couple is get through them healthy and be ready for the next one.”

The next one for Lester will be Monday in Yankee Stadium. It was not exactly a surprise when Farrell named Lester as the Opening Day starter. After all, the left-hander has started the last two opening days, and has been lined up to pitch that day since the start of spring training games. Still, that does not diminish its meaning.

“Absolutely. All the words: honor, privilege, all that... Especially for this organization to be named that,” Lester said. “I take it with great pride and go out there and give it a good start and hopefully get this team off to a good start in the season”.

Lester has struggled in his previous season openers, though. In Texas in 2011 and in Detroit in 2012, Lester went a combined 12 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on 12 hits and four walks with four strikeouts, three home runs, and two hit batters, for a 4.38 ERA.

“The hardest part about Opening Day I would say is just all the hoopla, all the stuff leading up to first pitch,” he said. “Because once the first pitch is there it’s the same game. And I think that goes back to guys’ first start in the playoffs, first start in a World Series. It’s just a lot of stuff that builds up to that first pitch, and once you get out there and the quicker you realize, ‘OK, this is just like five days ago in Fort Myers, only it means something,’ the eaiser it is to get through that. I think the first one was the hardest. Last year was a lot more normal as far as building up to a start for me.”

And in New York, against the Yankees this season?

“It’ll be even more [hoopla],” he said. “New York and Yankees and Red Sox, it’ll be a bunch of stuff going on, you just have to try to block it out and stay on your routine. That’s why those routines are so important leading up to games.”