Jon Lester has been named the Red Sox Opening Day starter, and for great reason.
The lefty has been Boston’s most dominant and reliable starter for the last three seasons, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Last year, Lester came within striking distance of the American League Cy Young award with a 19-9 record, 3.25 ERA, and 225 strikeouts.
He’s developed into one of the most feared left-handed pitchers in baseball, and his 2011 season should reflect that reality.
Heading into the 2009 season, the big question mark surrounding Lester was whether or not he could handle the innings spike that took place the year before.
He went from throwing 63 in 2007 (after rebounding from his battle with cancer) to 210 in 2008, and many wondered if his body would hold up to that level of work load.
Lester has responded with back-to-back seasons of at least 200 innings and 220 strikeouts, and he’s been one of the most durable starting pitchers in baseball for the last three years.
Since 2008, he’s surpassed Josh Beckett as the ace of the staff and there was no shock when he was named the Opening Day starter by Terry Francona for the April 1st game in Texas.
As a 26-year-old last season, Lester ranked third in the AL in wins and strikeouts, putting him in the same category as names like C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and David Price.
Before an eight earned run performance against the White Sox in his final start of the regular season, he was on pace to finish with an ERA under three, a feat accomplished by only four AL starters in 2010.
Lester was dominant against the Phillies in Monday’s Grapefruit League start before struggling in his final inning of work, and he has given no indication during spring training that his success won’t continue.
He’s accomplished a lot in his relatively short Major League career, and he may be poised to become just the third 20-game winner in the American League in the last four years.
Here are Jon Lester’s projected statistics for the 2011 regular season:
GS: 31 IP: 207 W/L: 20-7 ERA: 3.16 WHIP: 1.18 K: 223 BB: 76
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