Lester focusing on October
Jon Lester gave himself some extra time off this winter, waiting until all the little aches and pains of last season had subsided before going back into the gym.
The Red Sox lefthander has not missed a start in the last three years, piling up more than 650 innings counting the playoffs.
“Just wear and tear. The past three years have been long seasons for me,’’ Lester said yesterday. “Last year when I started working out I was still battling some things. This year I started fresh. It has been good.’’
Lester then paused and cracked a little smile.
“Mentally and physically, I’m preparing for the World Series,’’ he said. “I’m doing extra right now to make sure my body holds up for late October. You look at the kind of team we have and I don’t see why can’t get there.’’
Lester is not a man given to hyperbole. But when the Sox obtained Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks, and Dan Wheeler, his expectations soared.
“Obviously it’s exciting. It’s going to be a fun year,’’ he said. “I figured we’d get one of those kind of guys. I thought we’d get Carl or Jayson [Werth] and go from there. To get actually four guys, that’s going to make our team more balanced offensively and with the pitching.
“Now we have [relievers], if a starter gets in trouble in the sixth inning, who can fill that void. To me, Wheeler is one of the best setup men in the game. He’s going to be big for us, too.’’
Lester was most happy to have Crawford come over from the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Gonzalez is a big bat for us. But the main thing for me is that we don’t have to worry about Crawford any more,’’ he said. “That’s a big weight off our shoulders. A guy like that changes a lot of games. Now that he’s on our side, we can get rid of those scouting reports and not worry about it.’’
Lester was in Boston yesterday to do some promotional work for People’s United Bank and worked a room full of suits and ties with confidence, smiling and shaking hands.
Now 27, Lester is coming off a season in which he won 19 games, made the All-Star team for the first time, and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. The quiet young man who overcame cancer to help the Sox win the 2007 World Series has disappeared. Lester has a 6-month-old son, a contract through 2013, and unquestioned status in the clubhouse.
What he wants now are more championships.
“In 2007 I didn’t know any better,’’ he said. “I was just happy to be back playing baseball. In ’08, I knew that was our goal and it was the same the last two years.
“But look at our team now. We had a good year last year but we didn’t have a great year. Because of the injuries a lot of guys had time off. I think a lot of guys will have a chip on their shoulder.’’
Lester ticked off the names: Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Kevin Youkilis. All were either injured or underachieved last season.
“There’s a lot to prove in our clubhouse,’’ he said. “That can take you a long way as a team.’’
Lester, who started working out earlier this month, will throw off a mound next week and report to spring training Feb. 7, a week early. He has spoken to new pitching coach Curt Young and swapped text messages with some teammates. But his offseason otherwise has been quiet. His son, Hudson, took up a lot of time and Lester mixed in a few hunting trips.
As he spoke, Lester fiddled with his 2007 World Series ring. He rarely wears it, but he broke it out for the event.
“I don’t like looking at it, to be honest,’’ Lester said. “I’ve always been one to turn the page.’’
But then he did look at it, twisting it a little to admire the diamonds.
“One thing about wearing it,’’ Lester said, “it makes you want to get another one.’’