He went 76-34 in six seasons (four full years), including a 19-win campaign in 2010. He had an ERA of 3.42 or better from 2008-2011, striking out an average of 196 batters each season. He had a no-hitter under his belt.
But in 2012, Lester went into Opening Day without longtime Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek for the first time. He was also in his second year without pitching coach John Farrell, who had been there as Lester rose from the farm system to anchoring Boston’s rotation.
The results reflected the absences.
Lester went just 9-14 last year with a 4.82 ERA — numbers actually buoyed by a better second half.
Now, entering his eighth season and looking to regain his form as the Red Sox’ ace, Lester is welcoming one of his former influences back — and counting on him to help turn things around.
Farrell was named Boston’s new manager Sunday, and Lester already knows what that means for him.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Lester said, according to ESPNBoston.com. “He helped mold me into the pitcher I am, the player I am. My work ethic, the work I do between starts, he really helped mold all of that.”
Lester said part of what he is looking forward to is the familiarity that Farrell, who was a big part of the Boston staff from 2007 to 2011, brings to the manager role. Last year, the team struggled to get used to new manager Bobby Valentine — starting with spring training, going through a rocky season, and continuing all the way until the last game, after which Valentine was fired.
“It will be good to have a familiar face and know what to expect coming into spring training,” Lester said. “Last year we didn’t know what to expect. I know John, and I’m excited to get back working with him.”
Boston will have a new pitching coach this year, too, after cycling through Bob McClure and Randy Niemann last year. But having Farrell, who Lester says can take care of details well, will be a help, even if he’s the manager this time around.
“John is a very meticulous person,” Lester said. “That’s what made [former manager Terry Francona] so good. You knew he was going to be so prepared going into each game that you knew he would put you in a situation that gave you the best chance to succeed. That’s when you end up playing better and bonding together.”
Lester also praised Farrell’s communication style, saying he knows how to get the message across, even in tough situations.
Lester had to dig deep to salvage a mostly forgettable season last year. It sounds like he thinks Farrell can take that effort even further this year, and possibly get a key piece of Boston’s rotation back to All-Star form.