FORT MYERS, FLORIDA (CBS) – Like most of his Red Sox teammates, Jon Lester is just looking to move on from an awful 2012.
Last season saw Lester post career highs in ERA (4.82), hits (216 in 205.1 innings pitched), runs (117), and most importantly, losses (14) — numbers far from the pitcher Boston fans wanted to see on the mound every fifth day since he took his spot in the rotation in 2008.
So heading into to 2013, the Red Sox pitchers — Lester especially — has a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
“I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again,” Lester told the collection of reporters gathered around him at the Red Sox spring training complex on Wednesday. “That desire of not wanting to fail anymore. I didn’t like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched. That’s solely on me, not anyone else.”
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With the failures of 2012 come plenty of doubters for the upcoming season. But Lester, who won 65 games in the four seasons prior to last year, likes to hear the negativity and will use it as motivation going forward.
“I love it. Bring it on,” the lefty said confidently. “What you guys expect of me is nothing of what I expect of myself. I expect a lot. I try to live up to my own expectations before everyone else’s. Obviously that’s never going to happen, but I take my job serious and I want to reach those. Just because I don’t doesn’t mean it’s a failed season. Every year my expectations have been higher of myself than what I’ve done. There are things involved in that season that are good and some that are bad. You try to take every offseason and learn from those, take out the negatives and move on from the positives. Hopefully you keep building off those and your expectations get higher and higher.”
“We never got our asses kicked that bad,” Lester said of 2012. “It’s frustrating and it’s humbling, and it can also be a positive in the end. Nobody wants to be that team and do what we did last year. I think it gets the guys back to the right mindset. We need to play with that chip on our shoulder, we need to not back down when people are trying to step on us, we need to do the little things right and focus on that.”
Gallery: Spring Training Photos
Lester said he will work on keeping his emotions in check while on the mound after earning a reputation with umpires last year for arguing balls and strikes. He says his body language could use some improvement, so it doesn’t look like he disagrees with every call made from behind the plate. He will also take his side work between starts much more seriously, though looking at him on the mound, you see Lester is a pretty serious guy whether he’s winning or losing.
This spring is Lester’s first without Josh Beckett on the staff, which in turn means he becomes the longest-tenured starter. But the 29-year-old lefthander isn’t too worried any “leader” titles, though if asked to be the leader of the staff he’ll be more than willing to take the job.
“For me, I don’t worry about leaders and all of that. I just try to do my job the best I can,” he said. “I try to, especially with some of the younger guys out here, do the right stuff on the field; doing the PFP’s right, taking the bullpens serious — doing the little things we should as veterans.”
“The leader stuff, I think, takes care of itself. People name you that, you don’t name yourself that,” said Lester. “It’s not a matter of not wanting to be a leader, it’s a matter of I don’t want to call myself a leader. The people who nominate themselves to be leaders are false leaders. I think the guys, kind of like [Jason Varitek], they go out, play hurt, bust their butt and show everybody they’re the guy. That’s what I hope happens, but if not, I’m still going to do all those things I said.”
“If one of my peers considers me a leader, that’s awesome. But I’m just trying to, right now, get the ship right and pitch well,” he said.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ. Tune in to his updates from Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, Florida all week on WBZ-TV, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 and 98.5 The Sports Hub!