Lester says he's OK after awkward landing

Lester says he's OK after awkward landing
June 27, 2013, 11:45 pm
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Jon Lester leaves in the eighth inning after landing awkwardly after throwing a pitch.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON – Despite his performance – arguably one of the best in his past eight starts – Jon Lester gave the Red Sox a scare Wednesday night. Lester left the game, a 7-4 victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, in the eighth inning with what appeared to be an injury.
 
With runners on first and second, no outs, after his third pitch to Jays No. 9 hitter Emilio Bonifacio – running the count to 3-and-0 – catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia ran to the mound as manager John Farrell also went to the mound, accompanied by a trainer.  After a brief discussion, Lester walked off the mound, limping slightly as he made his way to the Sox dugout.
 
After the game, though, manager John Farrell said Lester jammed his right hip, when he slipped on the landing of his delivery. The Sox are hopeful it is will not be a lingering issue. With Clay Buchholz on the disabled list since June 9, the Sox can ill afford another DL stint for a starting pitcher.
 
“His landing foot kind of gave way a little bit and he jammed his hip,” Farrell said. “And given where we were in the ballgame, number of pitches thrown, he had clearly done his job so we weren’t going to take any chances. So precautionary, we removed him. Just checking with him right after the game here, doesn’t seem to be anything lingering. I thought overall with Jon tonight, down in the strike zone much more on a consistent basis … very efficient overall.
 
“We’ll certainly check him again tomorrow but right now it looks like … he felt a little jamming sensation, hopefully it’s just that and tomorrow should be a normal Day 1 for him in his rotation.”
 
Lester said he felt “fine” after the game.
 
“I slipped a little bit,” he said. “I guess the doctors were kind of calling it a little jammed hip, type of zinging sensation down my leg. Something I’ve had before in years’ past, on particular nights when you slip or overstride. But this was a little bit different, and then obviously the part of the game that we were in, no point to really mess around with it at that particular juncture of the game.
 
“I actually feel fine now. Walking off the field, it just kind of stays with you for a little while, and then after the docs looked at me, I feel normal. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about it.”
 
Lester said he would have liked to stay in the game, but took the prudent route, with the Sox leading by five runs at that point.
 
“Obviously anybody, as far as a competitor, wants to stay in there,” he said. “But I think the right thing to do is what we did.
 
“I’m not too worried about it. The doctors didn’t seem worried about it. We’ll come in tomorrow and figure it out. The way I’m figuring it is I’ll pitch on my normal turn and maintain it and see how we go.”
 
Lester went seven innings (plus three batters in the eighth inning), giving up four runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He earned the win, improving to 8-4, as his ERA went from 4.57 to 4.61.
 
It was the fewest runs he’s allowed since June 6 when he gave up three to the Rangers.
 
Junichi Tazawa replaced Lester, throwing one pitch to Bonifacio – a ball with the walk charged to Lester. Tazawa allowed both inherited runners to score, with the runs charged to Lester, erasing a quality start.  Lester has recorded just one quality start in his past eight outings.
 
Lester appeared to struggle with command early. He walked Jays lead-off hitter Jose Reyes to open the game, and went to a 3-and-0 count on Jose Bautista before getting him to pop out. Lester got out of the inning, getting Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a double play. He threw 14 pitches in the inning, just six for strikes.
 
He did not allow a hit and faced the minimum number of batters through the four innings, giving up two walks but inducing two double plays.  He  held the Jays to two runs in his first seven innings, both in the fifth, when Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis both singled, scoring on Maicer Izturis’ two-out double.
 
“He kind of had been working on some mechanic stuff,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “I know in Detroit [Lester’s last start] he worked on some stuff really trying to load better on his backside so he’s not rushing, get his  hands moving. So tonight he was moving his hands before he got set so he can get in a rhythm and kind of stay on time.”
 
The command issues – and adjustments Lester made – were partly because of the tweaks to his mechanics, Saltalamacchia said.
 
“I think it’s just new with the mechanics side of  it,” he said. “It’s something new to him. He hadn’t been doing it in a game situation. So tonight was the first inning doing it. Looked great in the pen, so coming in felt good with it and he just had to stick with it, I think, getting thru that first inning of doing it.”
 
Getting out of the inning on just 14 pitches without allowing a run helped Lester get into a rhythm for the remainder of his outing.
 
“Bautista pops up a pitch that’s a hittable pitch and I think more than anything going out and putting up a zero in the first inning gave him a chance to get into a little bit of a rhythm, particularly the ground ball double play to end the first,” Farrell said. “From that point he looked relaxed on the mound and as aggressive as Toronto is he was able to get a number of early outs.”
 
“Obviously anytime that top of the lineup they have now with Bautista hitting second, makes it that much harder,” Lester said. “Obviously the walk to Reyes doesn’t help anything but was able to bear down against Bautista, get him to miss a really good pitch for him — I mean, he just missed that ball. So that was good for me and obviously getting the double play was big to get into the next inning.”
 
Pitching seven innings -- while working into the eighth -- it was  the deepest Lester has gone in a game since going seven innings on May 25 against the Indians. It’s a point of pride for him to go deep into a game, but in his last three starts he’s totaled just 15 1/3 innings.
 
“I feel that responsibility to go out there and save the bullpen and that’s what we tried to do tonight,” he said. “Obviously would have liked to give Taz a little better situation than what he came into, but he kept us with the lead and that’s the main thing.”
 
Lester, though, was satisfied with his outing. His offense gave him a 7-0 lead in the second inning, making it that much easier for him to work.
 
“Fastball command was pretty good tonight, I had a good changeup,” he said. “We were able to just mix the ball in Chien-Ming Wang] out of there early and getting to the bullpen, especially with a four-game series, so that was big. But when you have a seven-run lead against these guys, it takes that pressure off of making perfect pitches. You’re able to go out there, you know they’re going to be aggressive and you just have to keep the ball down and in the park and we were able to do that.’