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

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis. 

Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time. 

The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.

Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball. 


Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer.  And…

US ambassador to Japan?

Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.

The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons. 

When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team." 

Would he be interested?

"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.

Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. 

Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.