TORONTO -- The announcements from Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino that the team doesn't intend to re-start contract talks with potential free agent pitcher Jon Lester until after the season is over didn't take Lester himself by surprise.
It is, after all, what Lester wanted. And Lester emphasized that when the talks take place won't impact his chances of re-signing with the Red Sox, noting: "Just because we wait until the end of the season doesn't mean I won't be back.''
Lester spoke Thursday morning at Rogers Centre, hours after Lucchino told WEEI Radio that talks were on hold until after the season. On Wednesday, Henry said the same thing in an e-mail to the Boston Herald.
"I guess it's news because they said it,'' said Lester Thursday morning. "It's not news to me. We've talked about that and it's been kind of established. Maybe we now it puts it to rest, I guess. I don't know. Maybe it takes some of the stuff off my shoulders as far as questions, but it's nothing new. I think that's the point behind it -- just putting it to rest.''
Lester said he hasn't had any contact with ownership "recently'' and is unclear why Lucchino and Henry felt the need to make publc statements about negotiations being tabled.
"I don't know why they're saying it now,'' he said.
Asked if the announcements impact Lester's chances of staying with the Red Sox beyond this season, he said: "Not in my mind. I know that's been [part] of some of the conversations we've had with them, just trying to reiterate, 'Look, this doesn't change anything.' I just don't want to it to be a distraction. People know how things get, especially around here.
"The last thing, especially with (the trade deadline) next week and us needing to play well and get out [of last place], it's just not something that needs to be talked about or in the forefront of the plans right now. We need to play better baseball and win and that should be the focus right now.''
Lester said there was no thought given to using the All-Star break as a window to revisit talks.
"We've talked to them and established that we want to just put it off until the end of the season,'' said Lester. "We've talked to them, they've understood. I don't think three days can get something done. We had two months in spring training and we couldn't get it done, so I don't think three days would really help.
"We just told them now is not the right time. [It's] too big a distraction, too much to worry about. We need to worry about [winning] and that only. It's nice that John and Larry said that and I appreciate that. Maybe it will put it to rest now for a little while.''
Lester added that being unsigned with two months left in the season hasn't changed his mind about wanting to remain with the Sox.
''I don't think it's gone bad,'' he said. "I know it's hard for people to believe just because they're not in the room or they're not on the phone with these guys and not getting reports back from my agents. [Conversations with the team have] been positive . . . but, like I said, during the season is not the right time to talk about years or money.
"We left spring training shaking hands and saying, 'Hey, let's go win another World Series.' There were no hard feelings. People badmouth their offer (four years, $70 million) -- it's an offer. Like Larry said, it's a reference point to start. It didn't hurt my feelings. I understand the business side of it. [Not being signed on] Opening Day didn't change anything about how I feel about the Red Sox and the organization. Just because we wait until the end of the season doesn't mean I won't be back.''
Lester is enjoying perhaps his finest season with a 10-7 record and a 2.50 ERA. Over his last seven starts, Lester is 4-0 with an 0.85 ERA, evidence his uncertain contractual status hasn't been a distraction.
"That doesn't surprise me,'' he said. "I know how to handle things pretty well. I'm pretty even-keeled when it comes to everyday life. Obviously, out on the mound I'm a little bit more emotional. But [being at the ballpark] is my safe haven. I've got the guys and I'm not thinking about it.
"We're doing this, worrying about winning and playing good baseball. Then, on the days I pitch, I'm worried about that. I think the hardest part for me is the downtime. When you haven't seen family and friends for a while, they want to get caught up and it rehashes all that stuff. I think that's the hardest part -- being away from the field. Being here is easy. I've got plenty of other things to think about and that's not one of them.''