Lester haunted by lack of command

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Lester haunted by lack of command

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; a:link, span.MsoHyperlink color: blue; text-decoration: underline; a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed color: purple; text-decoration: underline; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Jon Lester will go back to the drawing board, but he wonthave to re-invent the wheel after Monday nights 7-3 loss to the Chicago WhiteSox at Fenway Park.

Lester allowed a season-high seven earned runs in sufferinghis second loss of the season. And the hot topic after his latest rough outingwas the leftys command.

It was one of those nights where I just battled myself,said Lester. I couldnt get in a rhythm. The ball was up. When I actually didthrow it over the plate, it was up.

Tonight, I really just didnt have a feel for anything. Istunk. Theres no other way to put it.

Lester allowed eight hits and a solo home run, but the mostconcerning numbers were his four walks and two hit batsmen. But even moreconcerning than those command issues was the fact that Lester was getting awayfrom what makes him shine.

According to Terry Francona, Lester was throwing far too many cutters. Its a devastatingpitch, when he uses it at the right time. But his overuse of the cutter hasbeen progressing over time, according to Francona.

Hes gotten into a little bit of a mode, where, his cutteris so good, but hes throwing a lot of them, said Francona. Weve got to gethim back to establishing fastball, changeup, breaking ball, and using thatcutter to put people away.

Its just getting to the point where its been a little bitmore and more. I mean, it is a great pitch, but hes throwing a lot of them.So, well go back to the drawing board a little bit, and have a good side withpitching coach Curt Young.

Ironically enough, it was a flat cutter that ended hisnight, but by no means was Alexei Ramirez bloop double to shallow right fielda frozen rope.

The game was tied at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, and Lesterwalked lefty Juan Pierre to load the bases with two outs. Ramirez then took acutter the other way, and dropped a ball just over the head of Adrian Gonzalezand barely to the left of the right-field line.

That scored two runs and gave the White Sox a 5-3 lead,ending Lesters night. Dan Wheeler then gave up a two-run, bases-clearingsingle to Carlos Quentin that made it a 7-3 game.

As much as were talking about him not commanding tonight,were 3-3, bases loaded, and we get a blooper that lands inside the chalk,said Francona. That was two runs there, and two more when he left.

The ball wasnt hit hard, but we walked a lefty to getthere. If you give the other team enough chances, sometimes those things happen.

And as we learned after the game, if Lester is throwing toomany cutters, thats not a good thing.

Its the only pitch I could throw for strikes, said Lester.I had no command of my fastball. I threw a couple decent changeups, and Ithink I threw one curveball for a strike, just because I got a check swing atit.

It was really the only pitch I could command, so we had touse it.

I think hes maybe going to the cutter because when hesgetting into binds, he knows he can get out of it with it, said Francona. Andtheres been more baserunners than probably normal.

Because the Red Sox have days off on Thursday and nextMonday, Lester won't pitch again until next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Inbetween now and then, they will, as Francona mentioned, go back to the drawingboard.

But nobodys panicking.

I dontneed to go out there and try to figure things out," said Lester. "I think it was just one ofthose deals tonight where I got a little ahead of myself at times, working eastto west, instead of north to south.

I dont need to throw an extended bullpen or anything likethat, yet, it will be nice to get an extra day. Weve been going pretty hard atit these past couple of go-arounds.

When hes going good, he will command better, saidFrancona. We get concerned about everything because thats our job. We try tofix it when its not perfect. And so will he. Hes such a perfectionist. Weretalking about him not commanding, but still, if that ball goes foul, he may endup the winning pitcher.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.