Lester closes in on Opening Day start

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Lester closes in on Opening Day start

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his second Grapefruit League outing on Friday going four scoreless innings, giving up four hits, with no walks and five strikeouts against the Twins Friday afternoon Jon Lester polished his credentials as the Red Sox Opening Day pitcher.

Although manager Terry Francona has not named his starter for the April 1 opener in Texas, it is a foregone conclusion by scheduling, if not results that Lester will get that start.

Itd be nice, Lester said of getting the ball on Opening Day. But its not something Im worried about right now. We still got a long way to go and some innings to go. And when that day comes, if Tito gives me the ball, itd be a big honor. But if he doesnt, its no big deal.

I just pitch when they tell me to pitch and if it lines up with that day, then so be it. Obviously, Id be very honored to take the ball that day. But, if Im not, weve got four other guys in that clubhouse that I have no problem with taking the ball. So its not something Ive even counted into or figured out. A lot of things can happen from now until then and well worry about it when that day gets here.

Lester missed his last start Sunday in Port St. Lucie -- because of the flu, throwing a three-inning simulated game Monday.

I dont feel like I was behind, he said. That simulated game helped me. I think being able to do that and still get something out of it is important, and was able to do that on Monday. I think thats the biggest key is not taking those simulated games lightly, and still trying to treat it like a game and get that soreness the next day that you would if you were in a game. I feel like Im on track and everythings going in the right direction.

In his two Grapefruit League starts, he has pitched a combined six scoreless innings, giving up five hits and one walks, with five strikeouts.

Against the Twins, he struck out Justin Morneau, on a curveball to end the first inning, and Jim Thome to open the second. He gave up consecutive singles to the next two batters, Danny Valencia and Jason Kubel, before getting Steve Holm to ground into a double play.

He retired the side in order in the third. But in the fourth, he allowed the first two batters to reach Delmon Young on a single to right field, and Morneau on Carl Crawfords first error of the spring. But Lester got Thome to ground into a double play before striking out Valencia, looking, to end his outing.

Said one scout in attendance: "He looked sharp and precise with his command of all his pitches. He threw some very good late-breaking cutters and changed speeds well with his curveball. He threw all his pitches for strikes and with confidence. It was a quality outing, kept hitters off balance."

I felt good, Lester said. I got in a little bit of a rhythm early. The main thing is everything went smoothly and everything feels good, healthy, and move on to the next one.

Lester threw 57 pitches, 41 for strikes.

Lester was real good, said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who was managing the split-squad team. Talking about pitch efficiency, his count per inning was good. I think he ended the night with 57 pitches over four innigns, threw his breaking ball pretty well for strikes. I know he had a high percentage of strikes with that. Thats a solid outing. He missed his last start with a little bug. If he can come out and pitch like that, thats a good sign.

Possibly the sign of an Opening Day starter.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Paxton, Seager pace Mariners past Red Sox, 4-0

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Paxton, Seager pace Mariners past Red Sox, 4-0

SEATTLE -- James Paxton added a dominant night to what has become a dominant month.

Paxton allowed four singles over seven innings to win his fifth consecutive start in July and Kyle Seager homered to pace the Seattle Mariners to a 4-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday night.

"Heck of an effort by Pax tonight," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "He is on a nice roll right now and we're the beneficiary of it. It's been fun to watch. Getting all of his pitches over. His stuff was electric tonight."

Paxton (10-3) retired the first 13 hitters before Jackie Bradley Jr.'s single to center with one out in the fifth. The left-hander, who worked out of trouble in the sixth and seventh innings, matched his career high with 10 strikeouts and walked none. Paxton has allowed six earned runs in 33 1/3 innings and not given up a home run in five starts this month.

"My arm just felt really good today. Had the big fastball and it was just coming out easy today," said Paxton, who missed almost all of May with a forearm strain. "I wasn't thinking about going out there and throwing 98, 99, that was just what was coming out today."

Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3) allowed four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two in his second start since coming off the disabled list.

"I missed my pitches," Rodriguez said. "Fastball to Seager, he makes good contact and hits a homer. That's how it is when you miss a spot."

Seager started a three-run second with his 14th home run, lining a 2-1 pitch over the wall in straightaway center to open the inning. With one out, Ben Gamel tripled into the right-field corner. Gamel scored on Guillermo Heredia's fielder's choice chopper to first, beating the throw home with a head-first slide. Heredia scored from first on Jean Segura's double into the right-center gap.

"I had a lane to slide in and I felt like I could sneak my hand in there, so I just went for it," said Gamel, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games and raised his average to .323.

Seattle added a run in the fourth when Gamel singled, Segura was hit by a pitch and Danny Valencia doubled.

In the sixth, Brock Holt reached with one out on a throwing error by first baseman Valencia. Mookie Betts singled Holt to second, but Paxton struck out Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia.

Hanley Ramirez and Bradley opened the seventh with consecutive singles, but Paxton struck out Chris Young and enticed Deven Marrero into a double-play grounder to short.

"On a night where we got to swing our way out of it, we get a couple of opportunities in the sixth and seventh, and the strikeout was a big weapon certainly for Paxton tonight," Boston manager John Farrell said. "First and second one out, couple of key strikeouts to (Benintendi) and (Pedroia). And then we come right back in the seventh inning, we think we are in a pretty good spot first and third nobody out, and unable to string any base hits together."

Paxton is scheduled to get another start before the end of the month.

"I think it's five wins in the month of July. He's got a chance to get one more," Servais said. "It's hard to win six games in a month. I don't know if it's ever been done by a Mariner before, but hopefully we'll see it."

TRAINER'S ROOM:

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts was scratched with an illness, although it was not related to the hand injury he suffered last week. Marrero started.

Mariners: CF Jarrod Dyson was out again with a toe injury sustained when he crashed into the wall Sunday. He is day-to-day.

RED SOX MOVES

Boston called up top prospect Rafael Devers from Triple-A Pawtucket. The 20-year-old Devers began the season at Double-A Portland, hitting .300 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 77 games. He played just nine games at Portland, hitting .400 with two homers. ... RHP Kyle Martin was optioned to Pawtucket. ... LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (left elbow inflammation) was transferred to the 60-day DL.

MARINERS MOVES

Seattle signed veteran INF Danny Espinosa, who was released last week by the Los Angeles Angels. Espinosa hit .209 with a career-high 24 homers in 2016 with Washington, but hit just .162 in 77 games with the Angels. He will be used in a utility role. ... RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (right shoulder inflammation) was transferred to the 60-day DL.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Segura was hit in the foot by a pitch with two outs in the fourth. The Red Sox challenged, but the call on the field was upheld after a review of 1 minute, 10 second.

UP NEXT:

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (10-4, 3.51) has won four consecutive decisions over his last five starts, posting a 2.12 ERA over that span. Devers is expected to debut at 3B.

Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.88) is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in six starts since coming off the DL (right shoulder inflammation). He is 5-2 in nine starts vs. Boston at Safeco Field.

Bean: Hayes' handling of Felger makes Price look even worse

Bean: Hayes' handling of Felger makes Price look even worse

Jimmy Hayes and David Price both had the opportunity to confront media members recently. The guy with nothing to lose somehow handled it significantly better than the highly paid superstar. 

According to Michael Felger, Hayes, fresh off being bought out of his Bruins contract this summer, approached him in Nantucket over the weekend, handed him a beer and then lit into him, as the Dorchester native was what Felger called “really unhappy” with Felger and Mazz for some shots he felt were too personal. 

MORE RED SOX:

 
Now, we shouldn’t need to get into how Hayes should feel about the local media vs. how Price should feel, but here’s a reminder of each’s situation: Hayes is a local kid who was billed as something he wasn’t. No one expected things to go as poorly as they did, but they did and it was ugly. 

Price, on the other hand, was a highly touted free agent signing who had a good first year in Boston and, after injury delayed the start of his 2017, has been good on the field and pissy as hell off it. He’s yelled at two media members in the name of being a good teammate, most recently when he went after Dennis Eckersley on the team plane. 

Worst-case scenario, Hayes’ days an NHL regular could be over. Price remains in the midst of a prolific career and is making $30 million this season. There’s no question of who’s had it worse. 

So when you see how each handled the situation -- and even consider that alcohol was involved in what was the more civil case -- Price’s treatment of Eckersley (according to Dan Shaughnessy’s report) looks even worse. 

With the media, Hayes is polite, yet soft-spoken. In the setting in which he found himself with one of his biggest critics, he didn’t need to be. He could have tried to embarrass Felger, as Price did by mocking Eckerlsey in front of an airplane full of people. 

Instead, Hayes gave Felger a piece of his mind and the two moved on. Hayes doesn’t need to worry about Felger given that he’s not playing here anymore, but he got to make Felger answer for any perceived low blows. 

Felger was more critical of Hayes than Eckersley is of the Red Sox. In fact, Paula Abdul was often more critical of Idol contestants than Eckersley is of the Red Sox. That the players apparently hate him is perplexing, as they’re the only ones who think he comes off as malicious. 

Confrontations between players and media members certainly happen throughout the course of a season, though they typically follow a more standard format: Player says something to reporter because he doesn’t like their story or question, uncomfortable exchange takes place and, often times, apologies are given when cooler heads have prevailed. 

Yet there’s been no apology to Eckersley from Price, and there’s little reason to believe cooler heads will prevail as it relates to Price’s attitude toward the media. Hayes’ handling of his confrontation said something about his character; Price’s confrontations are only serving to build a unnecessarily negative reputation.