Lester a fast starter
He arrives early, is already at work
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Jon Lester has always been considered among the accountable ones on the Red Sox. Though he was named as one of the fried chicken-and-beer trio, Lester was among the first players to address the situation back in October. And now he is in camp, working hard, looking lean, and excited about the coming season.
Lester is not giving lengthy interviews right away, per order of the public relations staff, which is saving him for a larger media event when pitchers and catchers officially report Feb. 19.
However, the lefthander has already set an example by showing up early and is working with other pitchers, such as Andrew Miller, Aaron Cook, Junichi Tazawa, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and minor leaguers.
Lester dismissed the notion that he was on hand early to set that type of example, merely saying that he likes to be down early before every camp and go about his business at his own pace before the full squad shows up.
He spent the offseason at his home in Georgia and worked out, hoping to take the next step in his career. He seems to be looking forward to the new regime of Bobby Valentine, with whom he has spoken several times, and new pitching coach Bob McClure, with whom he says he’s had the most contact.
Lester doesn’t like what happened last season and wants to do his part to change things. He was really into some of the agility drills that the pitchers on hand were put through yesterday. He has done his normal throwing on the side and is expected to throw another bullpen session today. And he is excited about the progress of Matsuzaka and Rich Hill coming back from Tommy John surgery.
We’ll hear more from Lester when he is able to expand, but you get the sense from a brief conversation that he is ready to move on from last season.
Hill threw 20 pitches off a mound and long-tossed from 120 feet. He threw with some very good velocity off the mound from a three-quarters angle.
“It’s a building-up process,’’ said Hill, who is eight months removed from surgery. “You build up to where you feel great, but it’s a long process and there are different phases to this rehab.’’
Throwing three-quarters for now results in less stress on the arm and elbow. Hill would prefer to go back to being a sidearm reliever, which he converted to last season. He was very effective against lefthanded hitters with the funky delivery. Will he come back as a “down-under’’ pitcher?
“That’s something we’ll be talking about,’’ Hill said. “I’ve felt really good throwing over the top throughout the whole rehab process, but it’s really going to be about what’s needed for the team.
“Throwing low three-quarters out of the bullpen, obviously you’ve got to be able to get lefties and righties out.’’
In nine appearances before blowing out his elbow May 29, he did not allow a run. He has one of the best curveballs in baseball and was throwing in the 92-94 m.p.h. range as well.
“Staying down there with consistency is the key,’’ said Hill. “The head stays on the target longer, the breaking ball was really effective down there. The fastball was extremely effective, too, because now I’ve created almost a sinker rather than a four-seam fastball.’’
As of yesterday, the Sox were still planning for their Monday arbitration hearing with David Ortiz. Many experts believe Boston’s $12.65 million figure is too low for a player who can compare himself with recent free agents, such as Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Is he a $23 million player? Probably not, but is he closer to $16.5 million or $12.65 million? That’s where the experts think the Sox would probably benefit by settling the case. Ortiz is still looking for a two-year deal, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards at present. Ortiz is 36, but age can’t enter into the equation in an arbitration hearing . . . Cook, the former Rockies starter whom the Red Sox signed to a minor league deal, showed up yesterday, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was obtained along with Andrew Bailey from the A’s . . . Comebacking outfielder Ryan Westmoreland took part in drills and hit in the cage.
A right angle
Here’s a camp sleeper: Juan Carlos Linares, the Cuban outfielder who missed most of last season because of an Achilles’ tendon injury, is a proven hitter who could wiggle his way into the right field mix. Linares said he is fully healed . . . Dwight Evans arrived yesterday to speak at a fantasy camp function . . . Oil Can Boyd, who made headlines by saying he pitched under the influence of cocaine for two-thirds of his major league starts, didn’t back off his comments yesterday. “I tell the truth,’’ Boyd said. “I did it and I’m not afraid to say it.’’ . . . Larry Lucchino, who scoured the new JetBlue Park facility Wednesday with Sox executives Jonathan Gilula and Jeremy Kapstein, returned to Boston yesterday . . . Valentine will arrive Sunday and likely be ready for work Monday . . . The Sox announced that NESN will televise 12 of the 33 spring games, including eight at JetBlue Park. The broadcast schedule includes the annual game against Boston College March 3 at 7 p.m., and the first game against major league competition, March 4 against the Twins at 1:35 p.m.