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May 25, 2007:

FARM REPORT by Gary Jacobs

Lester’s Road A Little Shorter

Pawtucket,  RI - 05/02/07 - Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester pitches during a rehab start at McCoy Stadium while facing the Indianapolis Indians.  Lester is hoping to join the Red Sox after coming back from Cancer.

(5.2.07, Boston Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)

PAWTUCKET, RI | May 25, 2007 -- You’d think there’d be an exciting game at McCoy last night – Jon Lester is on the hill against the Syracuse Chiefs. The Boston media, enticed to The Farm thanks to Lester’s start and an off day for the Big Club, crowds the press box in eager anticipation. Hazel Mae makes an appearance: Farm Report’s heart goes pitter-patter.

But Lester, on a 70-75 pitch count, is so good it’s almost not newsworthy. After two innings he’s mowed down the Syracuse Chiefs in 17 pitches. His evening ends after the fifth, having thrown 65 pitches, 39 for strikes, and giving up one run for a no-decision in an eventual 3-2 victory for the home team.

Jon Lester is going to be back, and when he is, heaven help the rest of the American League.

How did Lester feel after the game?

“Good,” said Lester. “Everything came out well, and the forearm feels fine.”

Lester’s outing clearly positioned him a step or two closer to a return, but the young lefty is not yet circling a date on the calendar. “I don’t really know [when I’ll be back]…I felt good, my legs were under me through the whole five innings. It’s getting better – now I just need to get up to 90-100 pitches and see where we’re at then.”

Lester’s manager for the present, Ron Johnson, saw no downside to his performance.

“Jon’s got good stuff,” the PawSox manager said. “He’s got a good finish on his fastball, commanded pretty good in the upper half of the zone. I think as a hitter, you think you’re going to get to [the ball] and all of a sudden it gets a little giddyup and you get pop flies…he repeated deliveries, he was free and easy – he felt good.”

The only restriction Lester faced was on his cut fastball. His repertoire was restricted to three pitches: four-seam fastball, curve, and change-up. “They [the Sox front office] said we didn’t want to mess around with it,” said Lester. “They think it had an effect on some cramping and fatiguing in there, so they just want me to rely on other stuff right now.”

The one run that Lester surrendered over his five innings actually raised his ERA to 1.62. Over his four starts he’s struck out 13 and walked only five in 16 2/3 innings. At this point, if there were any lingering questions about “if,” they’ve been answered. It certainly seems like the more appropriate question is “when.”

“If it was up to me, I’d have been up there a long time ago,” said Lester. “They make the decisions, they set the schedule - I just pitch.” -- By Gary Jacobs, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor. E-mail Gary

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