FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester’s mind is at ease, so to speak.
Lester entered Boston Red Sox spring training light-years ahead of where he was upon reporting to camp last season. Rather than working extensively to fix his mechanics, Lester has been able to focus more on normal spring preparation. The results have been impressive to this point.
“It’s just more getting back to being a pitcher and focusing on getting the hitter out, whoever that may be. When you’re able to do that, your mind is on the right things,” Lester said after his second spring training start Saturday. “You’re not sitting out there worrying about your leg kick, worrying about where your hands are and all that stuff. This is obviously a different point for me than last year, and I think it showed in the work. My bullpen work has been a lot more crisp, and I’ve gotten a lot more out of it. This year in the games, I’m working on commanding the baseball as opposed to a bunch of other things going through your head. It’s been good this year for me.”
Lester, who struck out four over three shutout innings in his spring debut Monday, gave up one run on two hits while striking out five and walking one in four innings against the Philadelphia Phillies at JetBlue Park on Saturday. The left-hander stayed healthy, got up and down four times, elevated his pitch count and even honed his game while working deep into counts against several hitters. All in all, it was a good day at the office, which has been the norm for Lester this spring.
“There’s always going to be maintenance work with any guy, but coming into camp, there weren’t target points in his delivery to make any substantial adjustments,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Saturday’s 4-1 loss. “This has been more about getting his delivery on line (and) getting his pitch count built up. I’d say it’s been more reminiscent of previous years.”
Lester, who followed his dismal 2012 campaign with an excellent 2013, pitched a career-high 248 innings between the regular season and playoffs last year, prompting the Red Sox to ease him and the club’s other veteran starters into things this spring. Now, as Lester continues to ramp up the intensity, it’s clear the lefty is benefiting not only from Boston’s take-it-easy approach, but also from not having to deal with the heavy burden of overcoming mental and mechanical obstacles this year.