The countdown to the end of spring training continued today as the Miami Marlins beat the Red Sox 5-1. Daniel Bard was the main culprit in the Sox losing. Boston led 1-0 prior to Bard entering in the seventh inning, when he proceeded to give up three runs to suffer the loss in yet another shaky outing. But discussion of Bard’s progress is for another day. That wasn’t the main focus of this one.
Pay no attention to the final score. This game was all about Jon Lester in his final spring tune up before he takes the hill next Monday at Yankee Stadium for opening day. He did not disappoint.
The Numbers? 4 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0BB, 4K, 50 pitches, 38 for strikes. A performance we all wanted and needed to see prior to the curtain rising on the season.
Before the game, manager John Farrell “officially” named Lester the opening day starter. But there was never much doubt since the beginning of camp that Lester was going to be the guy barring an unforeseen setback.
That is as it should be because it is now Lester’s time to become the unquestioned leader of this pitching staff. There’s no more Josh Beckett to lean on. Lester is in his prime and at the point in his career where he should jump at the chance to be the ace. There are no more excuses to be had and he looks ready for the challenge.
More than anyone in camp, Lester seems to have benefited the most from the return of Farrell to the team and the refreshing approach new pitching coach Juan Nieves brings to the table. Their presence and instruction have been great for him both mentally and physically.
Farrell and Nieves have commented throughout the spring that Lester once again looks like the pitcher he was during his best seasons. His command has returned and they think that is because they have straightened out his mechanics, allowing him to produce the performance we saw this spring. He must continue to pitch like that during the regular season.
Lester will lead a rotation that will consist of Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster, who will pitch the other two games in New York next week, as well as Felix Doubront and John Lackey, who will pitch games four and five next weekend in Toronto.
The Red Sox are going to go as far as their starting pitching will take them this season. The fact that the Sox will rely on Lester to lead the way is a good thing because he certainly looks like he has returned to the form that has made him so beloved in Boston for so long. Or at least until chicken and beer-gate.
Lester knows there is pressure on him to win back many of the fans. He can set the bar for excellence and work ethic in this rotation. I believe he knows it is his time to take center stage.
We’ve seen in past seasons that he is capable of being a work horse who can bear down and win games. If the other rotation members follow his lead it will make for an interesting summer in Beantown. It will mean the Sox are right in the thick of things and, as fans, that is all we can ask for from this team.
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