FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s only been two spring training starts, but Red Sox manager John Farrell says that the difference between Jon Lester this spring and last year has been very apparent. Lester, coming off a year when he went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA, has now logged five scoreless innings this spring, including three against the Pirates on Friday night. While the left-hander incorporated his full pitch mix — including his curveball, changeup and cutter against Pittsburgh — it was the location of his fastball that Farrell considered the most telling sign of Friday night.
“With each time Jon gets on the mound, whether it’s in side work or in game action, he’s been down in the zone consistently. That was the case again tonight,” Farrell said. “When you look at the lower half in his delivery, he’s working downhill much more consistently. If you look at video, any time mid-season last year till now, you’ll notice a very different lead leg. That’s been able to allow him to work from kind of a high to low type trajectory through the strike zone rather than collapsing on the backside and pushing the fastball through the zone. Probably the quickest way I could explain it. And that’s what’s allowed him to throw the ball down at the bottom of the zone.”
Of the nine outs Lester recorded on Friday, five were on groundballs, two were on strikeouts and two were on flyballs. Given that he is coming off a year in which he permitted a career-high 25 homers, the idea of getting Lester’s mechanics to a point where his arm is swinging overhead — thus permitting him to leverage the ball downhill — has been an emphasis. To date, at this very early stage of the spring, the left-hander has been successful in the undertaking.
“I was able to do the same things we’ve talked about early on — staying tall and driving the ball downhill,” said Lester. “I’m becoming more comfortable with the adjustments that we’re making. Anytime you make changes and you get good results from those changes, it reinforces them and you keep working on them. That was the thing last year. We’re trying to make changes and not getting good results, so it’s hard to stick with those and ride them out. Spring training is a great time to do it and really work on it because results don’t matter, but at the same time you still want to go out and have good results.”
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