Lester tapped as Red Sox Opening Day starter


Lester tapped as Red Sox Opening Day starter

By Sean McAdam

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The announcement had a distinct anticlimactic bent to it, but it nonetheless made official what had been suspected for some time -- Jon Lester, Terry Francona acknowledged Wednesday morning, is the team's choice to start the Red Sox' season opener in Arlington, Texas.

Francona, who had dodged the question since soon after camp opened, admitted that he had made up his mind on the assignment over the winter. He had contacted Lester in the offseason to inform him of his decision -- "I think I was in a deerstand when he texted me," said Lester -- but asked the left-hander to keep the news to himself for a while.

"I don't think that's any surprise," said Francona in revealing his choice to reporters. "He's known for quite a while. I just haven't had a chance to talk to everybody on the staff yet, so, after Lester, we'll just kind of go day-by-day."

"I think he deserved it. I think he's one of the elite pitchers in the game. It seems like Lester's been our most consistent pitcher."

Lester was happy with the news, but took it in stride.

"Obviously, it's a big honor," he said. "Growing up, that's kind of who you want to be. But like I've said in the past, Opening Day is nice, but playoffs are more important. It's something that I'm honored to be named that, but it's still a work in progress.''

The honor is the first for Lester. Josh Beckett started the last two season openers and Daisuke Matsuzaka was the choice in Tokyo when Beckett was left behind in Fort Myers with a back strain.

"I don't think this is any big revelation," said Francona of the decision. "I just think he's been pretty good."

Lester was the choice to open the 2008 and 2009 ALDS when Beckett had injury issues, but selecting him to open the regular season with Beckett available represents something of a passing of the torch.

"I don't want to put too much emphasis on this," said Francona of the honor, "because I'm actually just about as excited about who we have at two, three and four out there, too. But I think Lester deserves this. I think he kind of has that stature in the game now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1.

"It's a big honor, which I understand. But other than that, once we start the season, it kind of goes by the wayside."

Lester has won 50 games over the last three seasons, easily the most on the Red Sox staff and has topped the 200-inning plateau each time.

Beckett, who is coming off his worst season in the big leagues, had publicly backed Lester as the logical choice to get the ball. Others on the staff concurred.

"That doesn't surprise me," said Francona of the support. "I would expect nothing less."

"If any of the other four guys had been named Opening Daystarter, it wouldn't hurt my feelings," said Lester. "The talent and the experiencethat we have in this rotation -- flip a coin. Anybody is worthy andanybody would be sure to be ready to take the ball on Opening Day.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics


Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.

Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1


Sale gets 9 Ks, Moreland hits home run as Red Sox beat Twins, 4-1

BOSTON - The way Chris Sale and the Boston relievers were pitching, the Red Sox didn't need to score a lot.

Sale went 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

"When you've got him on the mound, all you need is a couple and he's going to do the rest," Moreland said. "Obviously, tonight was another example of that."

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice fly for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

The Red Sox started fast, grabbing a 2-0 lead just four batters into the first.

"When the guys score early for you, it's nice," Sale said. "It settles you down a little bit and allows you to throw strikes."

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers. The loss coupled with Cleveland's win over Texas moved the Indians back a half-game ahead.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save after Matt Barnes struck out three in the eighth. Heath Hembree faced one batter, getting a double play.

The 6-foot-6 Sale relied on his usual sharp-breaking slider and fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s to fan eight over the first six innings, getting the initial half dozen with his breaking pitch.

"It's what we've seen many times. He had a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think the biggest trouble we had was with that slider, especially down and in to righties."

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota.

"When you go against a guy like Chris Sale, you try to give 110 percent," Berrios said through a translator.

Boston jumped ahead when Moreland homered into the first row of Green Monster seats after the first run scored on a double-play grounder.

Berrios had given up just two runs in each of his previous four starts, and six of eight since being promoted on May 7.

Gimenez's homer completely left Fenway Park over the Monster.