By: Dan Massar
BRADENTON, FLA. – Jon Lester was a stable force in the Red Sox rotation last season. Now the lefty will potentially be in Boston for years to come. According to Yahoo Sports! The Red Sox are offering Lester a 5-year $30 million contract. However, he isn’t talking about any contracts that haven’t been signed.
“Until the ink is on the paper nothing is final,” Lester said recently after a spring training start against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida.
Lester has been through a lot in his brief major league career. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in the middle of the 2006 season. He made his return to the majors in July 2007 and ultimately helped bring another title to Boston. He was the winning pitcher in game 4 of the 2007 World Series as the Red Sox won their second championship in four years. The long-term deal would be a nice reward for a young pitcher who boasted a 16-6 record in 2008.
Manager Terry Francona also wasn’t biting when asked about Lester’s possible deal.
“When we sign a contract with a player I’ll be happy to rave about him,” Francona said after watching Lester lead a split Sox squad in a 15-14 win over the Pirates in 10 innings. “It’s inappropriate when there’s nothing that’s happened.”
While Lester and Francona weren’t talking about any deal, Justin Masterson shared his thoughts.
“I’m excited because he’s a good pitcher and having him will definitely help this club out in the future,” Masterson said.
Locking up Lester long term would give Boston major stability in its rotation. Daisuke Matsuzaka is signed through 2012. Josh Beckett enters 2009 coming off a shaky 2008 campaign. He has an option year for 2010. This Lester deal could quiet any concerns for now about Beckett’s situation.
As for Lester’s performance on the mound this spring, he seemed pleased with his third spring training start after the game.
“I threw a couple good ones,” he said. “I’m happy with it.”
Ultimately, Lester will need to be a work-horseagain in 2009. He led the Sox with 210 innings pitched last season. He was also second in strikeouts with 152 behind only Beckett. He went 2 1/3 innings against the Pirates and gave up four hits and four runs. Only one run was earned and he walked one and struck out two.
“He had to work a little bit,” Francona said. “He looks strong.”
By: Dan Massar