FORT MYERS, Fla. — This has been an out-of-the-ordinary spring training for Jon Lester, having just made his first official Grapefruit League start March 10.
Still, the results suggest Lester might be able to navigate this conservative path without incident.
The Red Sox starter went three innings against the Rays Monday, allowing just one hit while striking out four. It was only the second game action of the spring for Lester, who pitched in a simulated game against minor-leaguers Tuesday.
The day’s end result was a satisfied starting pitcher, and a 6-2 win over the Red Sox.
“It felt a little weird, just not being a part of any games being around the guys,” said Lester, who threw more pitches than anybody in baseball in the 2013 season. “It feels like I haven’t seen the guys in about two weeks, so that’s been a little weird. I feel good. I keep building on that and just try to look forward to the next one.
“The biggest thing is just getting through your start healthy. I’m sure theres going to be things that come up throughout the course of spring training that we need to work on or address in the bullpen or in a game. Right now, the biggest thing is getting ready for the season, getting stronger with fastball command and fastball velocity and building off that.”
Lester seemingly had pinpoint control, getting all four of his strikeouts with the batters looking.
“All of them were perfect pitches,” said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “Even if they swung at them I don’t think they could’ve done a whole lot with them. A couple were down and away, perfect, painted. One of them was a cutter in, all you were going to do is break your bat on. I forget what the fourth one was but they were all just perfectly placed pitches. It’s tough to hit those when he gets them right where he wants him.”
“I threw everything,” LEster said. “That was kind of our approach, take it as a normal game, pitch when we have to, make some stuff up. Third inning, we threw some curveballs in there, threw some backdoor cutters. Just trying to take it as a normal game. It’s kind of nice to have that because it’s been a couple weeks to be able to build up. Usually your first couple you’re just throwing all heaters. To be able to go out there and throw all the pitches in a game setting is good.”
Offensively, the Red Sox got solid days from Will Middlebrooks (2 hits, 2 RBI), and David Ortiz, who launched a solo homer over the right field fence in the third inning. Mike Napoli hit what Ortiz called a “moon-shot” over the left field wall for home run in the sixth.
“I think last year I had to work harder than any other year,” said Ortiz, who missed all the spring training games a year ago while recovering from an injured Achilles tendon. “They got me training hard every day down here. I didn’t play games but it was worse playing because every time I go home I was worn out doing a whole bunch of things so once I started playing I was good to go but nothing man, spring training it’s fun the first couple of weeks. After that, we get here earlier, we work out pretty much all day and at some point it starts catching up with you, especially old guys like me.”
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