Lester on negotiations: 'Heading in right direction'

Lester on negotiations: 'Heading in right direction'
March 21, 2014, 5:00 pm
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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jon Lester confirmed negotiations on a contract extension are progressing.
Asked after his start Friday afternoon he was optimistic that a deal could be struck before the season starts in 10 days, Lester said: "Yeah, I think so. I know (the Red Sox) have been pretty busy dealing with David's (Ortiz) stuff and all that. It's a negotiation. No matter how optimistic people are about it, it's a tough process. We'll keep grinding it out and see where we get.''
Lester said progress has been made between the two sides and added: "I think we're heading in the right direction.''
He said he hadn't decided whether he would be willing to have his agents continue negotiations if a deal isn't reached by Opening Day. Some players instruct their representatives to cease negotiations when the regular seasons gets underway, fearing that talks could serve as a distraction.
"We'll sit down and talk about it and see what's in the best interest of both sides on that,'' he said, noting that it might depend on how close an agreement is when the season begins. "As of right now, things are progressing and like I said, we'll keep hashing it out and see where it goes . . . We've had good dialogue so that's good."
Lester is eligible for free agency and has said repeatedly that he would take less to remain with the Red Sox.
In all likelihood, Lester is seeking a deal worth approximately $20 million in average annual value. The Red Sox, who have been burned by some long-term deals in the recent past, want to keep the deal shorter to minimize their risk, but may have to pay Lester more on an annual basis to achieve that goal.
Meanwhile, on the mound, Lester had another strong outing, tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings, during which he allowed just four hits while walking one and fanning five against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In a game that ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings, Lester threw 83 pitches.
"It was good,'' concluded Lester of the outing. "I felt like I got in a rhythm earlier today than I did last time. I still don't have a good feel for my breaking ball or my changeup, but that will come. I'm overthrowing a little bit on those pitches, but I threw some cutters to both sides, so that was good."
"He went out and pitched," said John Farrell. "He didn't over-exert himself, got to 80-plus pitches and six times up-and-down, so I thought it was a very good workday overall for him."
Lester pronounced himself satisfied with his arm strength after being brought along slowly this spring.
"I don't know what the velocity is," he said, "but (the ball) is coming out pretty well right now. I feel a lot better than I thought I would (at this point of the spring). You let them dictate the plan, and so far, it's worked out for me. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction."