The Boston Red Sox and starting pitcher Jon Lester are putting contract extension talks on hold, general manager Ben Cherington said Saturday.
“I think we’re going to hit the pause button,” Cherington said. “We’ve had a lot of dialogues. We fully understand their position, and they fully understand our position that our desire remains to keep him here past 2014. It allows him to get ready for Monday and to get the team ready for Monday, we’ll hit the pause button. Hopefully we can pick up the conversation again at some point.”
Lester, who will become a free agent after the season, has made it clear that he would like to remain with Boston, and on Sunday, he repeated that sentiment. But until a deal is finalized, the left-hander will be peppered with questions about his future, which creates a potential for distraction.
“I wouldn’t say it completely leaves your mind,” Lester said about the negotiations, via Rob Bradford of WEEI. “I mean, it’s kind of like having the elephant in the room. We all know the circumstances that are there this year. I would like to think I’m good about dealing with outside things. When I’m at the park I’m thinking about what I need to do that day to get better and worry about the other stuff when I’m done.”
Although Lester admitted it was “disappointing” that the two sides were unable to strike a deal before Opening Day, he added that it’s simply part of the process.
“Is it disappointing? Sure. Is it disappointing for them? Probably. But that’s just negotiation,” Lester said when asked how he felt about how things were left with the Red Sox. “Like I’ve said before, and Ben (Cherington), I’m sure he’ll say the same thing. It’s not like we’re hammering our heads against each other. We’re in a good place on both sides. Both sides have been very reasonable about what we’ve been talking about.
“There’s no animosity on my side towards them, I would hope the same comes from them. Yes, disappointed it didn’t get done but we all have to be realistic about it and understand that it’s a process and that it’s going to take some time. … We’re all in a good place. We’ll see what happens. Let those guys deal with it, and I’ll play baseball.”
Lester, who will make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start Monday when he takes on the Baltimore Orioles, added that he isn’t worried about his performance affecting his possible new deal.
“If I use that for motivation, I’ve got problems. That’s not what motivates me to go out and pitch and get better. Money has never driven me, I love baseball, I love to play, so what drives me is to be the best pitcher I can and go out and help my team win.’’