BOSTON (CBS) — After throwing a simulated game on Wednesday, Red Sox ace Jon Lester is ready to take the mound for real.
At least, as real as it can get in early March.
Lester threw 38 pitches on Wednesday, facing 13 minor league batters in his first game-style action of the spring. He surrendered five hits and hit a batter, but walked none and struck out one.
“I felt fine,” the lefty told reporters when his work was done. “Physically I guess the whole point of today was to get through the first one, get some innings and some up and downs, get ready for some real game action.”
“I feel great health wise,” he said. “As far as the season, go back to the old cliché where it’s a long season and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully stay healthy, pitch every five days and everything else will take care of itself at the end.”
He’ll get his first real game action on Monday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston pitching coach Juan Nieves announced after Lester’s simulated game. As for the competition he faced on Wednesday, Nieves said pitching to minor-leaguers is not always easy.
“It’s tough competition. You can’t set those kids up,” said Nieves. “It’s tough when a big-league guy pitches against young competition because they’re very excited and swinging the bat.”
Lester said he threw all of his pitches and felt pretty good with each of them. He threw a couple of two-seam fastballs to righties, and tried to peel one off to a left-handed batter on the second pitch of the at-bat, but ended up hitting the batter.
“Trying to throw one against the lefty the first time wasn’t the best idea,” he admitted after.
The Red Sox held Lester and other starting pitchers back this spring, hoping to give them a little extra down-time after playing an extra month of baseball last October. Lester isn’t one who wants to sit around, thirsting for competition, but understands the team’s approach.
“I don’t like to be put in a bubble like that or be restricted if there’s no physical problems. You may as well go ahead and get after it and get ready for the season,” he said. “I think that gets you in trouble sometimes, just going through the motions; it’s spring training and they’re not letting me do everything, and then it’s the first start of the season and you get your butt kicked because you’re not ready. Hopefully we get into some games soon.”
Lester, who went 15-8 during the 2013 regular season before taking it up a few notches during a 4-1 postseason run, is hoping to get a new contract from the Red Sox this spring. He made it public that he’s willing to take a “home town discount,” but would also like to be paid like an ace. Though his agents were in Fort Myers last week, likely laying the framework with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Lester said there is nothing new on the contract front.
“Nope. I’m sure you guys will know before I do,” he said. “I just play baseball. I let those guys talk and handle all that stuff.”
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