Lester 'almost too strong' in simulated game


Lester 'almost too strong' in simulated game

By MaureenMullen

FORT MYERS, Fla. With Josh Beckett, manager Terry Francona, and general manager Theo Epstein among the onlookers, watching from behind the batting practice backstop, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester pitched three innings of a simulated game before the Red Sox game against the Orioles at City of Palms Park Monday. Lester missed his scheduled start Sunday, against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, because of illness.

Working on the back field, Lester threw to five Red Sox minor leaguers including right-handed hitters Oscar Tejeda, Hector Luna, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Ryan Lavarnway, and left-handed hitter Nate Spears. He started each batter with a 1-1 count. Unofficially, he threw 49 pitches (46 to batters and three additional), with five strikeouts, four walks and a hit. Tejeda singled with one out in the second inning.

Hes strong. He said he almost felt too strong, which is good, Francona said. You never really get to be that close to him when hes pitching. His stuff is amazing, that cutter and two-seamer. When you get to actually sit right behind the cage there, it's fun to watch.

Lester, who said he is recovered from the flu-like symptoms that hit him over the weekend, was satisfied with his outing, able to get in enough work to maintain his spring training progression.

Yeah, I think so, he said. Worked on a few things. Started today with something Im not really used to, with a 1-and-1 count. So I had to pitch a little bit differently. But I think everything went well. Felt good. Felt almost too good. But, yeah, everythings fine as far as physically and keeping the energy and keeping the delivery in the third inning.

Lester is expected to make his next start Friday against the Twins at Hammond County Stadium. The Sox have split-squad games that day, against the Twins and against the Astros in Kissimmee. A start that day would keep Lester on schedule to start Opening Day on April 1 in Texas, with an extra day off the week before.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.