Bobby Valentine Says Jon Lester Will Start Against Yankees, That Red Sox Have ‘Proactive Plan’ to Fix His Form


Bobby Valentine Says Jon Lester Will Start Against Yankees, That Red Sox Have 'Proactive Plan' to Fix His FormAs Jon Lester continues his slide to new depths of pitching failure, the Red Sox are trying all kinds of tactics to help him find his way.

No, he doesn't appear to be headed to the trade block or the disabled list. And sending him to Pawtucket is a great idea in theory, except the Sox can't do that without possibly losing him to free agency due to MLB rules that honor veterans who have played a certain number of years.

Instead, the Red Sox seem to be going with the old "let's keep trying" approach. Could the third (or fifth, or 18th, depending on your count) time be the charm?

Lester seemed to be at his worst July 17, when he crumpled in the first inning again as Boston hosted the White Sox. By the time that one was over, former teammate Kevin Youkilis had rung up Lester for a three-run homer, and Lester trudged off the mound with four innings of work and six earned runs allowed.

Sunday was even worse — an epic performance in the wrong direction. Lester allowed 11 earned runs on the day, including four home runs and five walks. Manager Bobby Valentine left Lester in the game despite a five-run first inning and a four-run second, finally giving the merciful hook after a two-run homer in the fifth.

Lester clearly has no idea what is going on, and although he was duly penitent about his poor outing, he can't be expected to fix himself if he's so far astray. That falls to the Red Sox and their coaching staff.

So far, the Sox have opted to leave Lester in games and hope he'll improve. And even after the first two horrific innings Sunday, Valentine let him keep pitching, appearing to hope that Lester would find a solution mid-game.

On Monday, Valentine said that approach — leaving Lester in the rotation and fixing the issues as the season goes on — is his plan for now.

"We've got a proactive plan," Valentine told reporters in Arlington, Texas, as the Red Sox opened their series against the Rangers. "He's going to throw Wednesday, maybe to a couple of hitters and get a feel for a couple of his pitches. He says he feels great and is throwing the ball as well as he has in a couple of years. We've just got to get him to a point where his good stuff is getting hitters out, and he says he's ready to do that."

Lester has continued to be optimistic about bouncing back — he insists he feels fine, and just about everyone on the team says he'll be fine once his pitches come together. But that avoids the real point, which is why the pitching has failed to come together — and appears to be regressing — as the season continues.

The closest Valentine got to deducing the problem was when he talked of restoring confidence.

"You let him know that if you're that far down, there's only one way to go, and that's up," Valentine said. "I believe in him. … That's a good start, and maybe if he's sitting in here, that will make two of us by the time he leaves."

Lester could have been skipped for a start as the Red Sox head to New York to face the Yankees this weekend, with the other pitchers having enough rest thanks to timing and Thursday's off day, but Valentine said he wanted Lester to keep going.

Valentine said he and Lester had talked about what to do, and Valentine — in a much different approach than the legions of Red Sox fans pulling their hair out — discounted the idea that Lester's pitching woes have been a major catastrophe.

"Just a conversation, you know?" Valentine said of what he and Lester talked about. "It's not anything that has to get deep. We have to talk and figure it out. We're not solving the world corn crisis."

It's just the Red Sox pitching crisis at this moment — and one that doesn't appear to have any fresh solutions in place.

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