Tagged: Jon Lester

Every Year There’s One

Every year, there is one player that shows up for Spring Training with something to prove.  They are typically more motivated, in better shape and more eager to get on the field.  This year, it looks to be Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz has been near flawless thus far in spring training and he looks like he’s bringing it!

Last season, Buchholz went 17 and 7 for the Red Sox with a 2.33 ERA.  That is pretty good… VERY GOOD!  With a little more offense, from the Red Sox, he probably would have ended up with 19 or 20 wins. 

If Buchholz improves on last year’s stats, it’s going to be hard to call any one pitcher an “ace” without some serious arguments!  Between Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz and Lester, there is some serious competition for the Ace role.  Also, Wakefield probably won’t go the entire season making starts, but he might make a couple.  And don’t forget Daisuke… when he is healthy, he can be a real asset to the pitching rotation.

The Red Sox have compiled a very competitive pitching staff this year and with improvements in the bullpen, the Sox should have a pretty good defensive year!

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Jon Lester Reaching the Majors, His Subsequent Battle with Cancer and His Memorable Return

Jon Lester‘s progression from high-school standout to
Cy Young Award candidate has been so smooth. He has improved at each
stop, blasting through whatever barriers were in his way.

There
were advancements made from 2003, his first full season as a pro, to
2004, and from 2004 to 2005, when he starred as a 21-year-old at
Double-A. The natural progression to Triple-A Pawtucket followed in
2006, and 11 starts against more mature hitters that resulted in a 2.70
ERA.

Like those days and days of rain in his native Puyallup,
Wash., Lester was relentless in his pursuit of a spot on the major
league roster. The 2006 edition of the Red Sox gave him that opportunity
through a rash of injuries to its pitching staff, but it would’ve been
tough to keep Lester down anyway.

Again, the train kept rolling.
Five wins, no losses and a 2.38 ERA through his first eight starts as a
major leaguer. He had a 7-2 record after picking up a win in Anaheim on
Aug. 23.

Then came the grinding halt.

Back pain. A visit
to a doctor in Tacoma, where they found ”some different things that
weren’t supposed to be there.” A cross-country flight to Boston for
further tests. A diagnosis no 22-year-old entering the prime of his
life, or anyone for that matter, should have to hear. Non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma. It was treatable, but the pursuit of his dream was now on the
back burner.

The top priority was suddenly coming to terms.
Unsurprisingly, Lester went about that in much the same fashion that he
did in rocketing up the organizational ladder — methodically,
forcefully and with expert precision.

”I’m 22 years old, I
thought I was in the best shape of my life coming in here, pitching
every five days and pitching at Fenway Park — what could be better?”
Lester said days after the diagnosis in Sept. 2006. ”Obviously, there’s
that denial. Why, how could it be me, what did I do wrong, type thing.
But you know, right now we don’t have room for that. Right now, all it
is we’ve got to fight this, we’ve got to beat it…We beat it, we get it
under control, we’ll start thinking about baseball, back to pitching.

”Until we do that, we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

Six
rounds of chemotherapy treatments followed, several of which came back
home in Washington, where Lester would fish when he had the energy,
spend valuable time with his parents and talk with figures from his
past, some of whom needed only one look into the eyes of the lefty to
know that cancer would simply be another conquest.

”Attitude is so huge with those kinds of things,” said Lester’s coach at Bellarmine Prep, Rick Barnhart,
who was so awed by Lester even as a freshman that he gave him a start
in the team’s first playoff game that year. ”Once you get past the why
me part of it, you get into the, OK, there’s something to be done here.
He got through that quick and after talking to him and seeing him start
that process, you felt he’s going to take care of this. There was never a
question.”

”You knew that if it was possible he was going to do it because he had all the right attitude with which to deal with it.”

By
December, the cancer was kicked, for all intents and purposes. By
February, Lester was back in a baseball uniform, setting his sights on
the next step of his baseball career.

It’s so cliche, but if you
subscribe to the everything-happens-for-a-reason school of thought, the
organization’s decision to send Lester to Single-A Greenville to start
his comeback in the spring of 2007, a decision upon which he was not
keen, was rather fortuitous.

”That made my year,” Lester said
at the time, referring not only to getting back on the mound after
months spent in and out of hospitals, but to the fortune he had in
meeting his now-wife, Farrah Johnson. In the time it
took to make three rehab starts for the Drive, Lester had not only
proven he still had his stuff but had found time to squeeze in romance.
Talk about a skilled individual.

It shows the power of love,
something the baseball world would witness once again when Lester made
it all the way back. With his parents, John and Kathie,
watching with lumps in their throats from behind the Red Sox dugout,
Lester returned to the major leagues on July 23 in Cleveland. He threw
six solid innings to defeat the Indians that night. Four starts later,
he returned to Fenway Park for the first time in almost a year and
dominated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The train was rolling once
again. Its last stop would come in October in Denver, where, just over a
year before a bad back led to the worst news of his life, Lester was
the winning pitcher in the decisive game of the World Series. From minor
league call-up to cancer survivor to postseason hero in a span of about
16 months.

With that storybook stretch behind him, a clean bill
of health and further proof that nothing could keep him down, Lester now
had his set his sights on superstardom. (nesn.com)