One of the best signs from spring training so far for the Boston Red Sox has been the performance of ace Jon Lester.
Whether it is removing the circus like atmosphere around the team or the return of former pitching coach John Farrell now as manager, Lester has started to resemble the 2010 version of himself.
Back in 2010, Lester looked like he was on the brink of stardom, winning 19 games with a 3.25 ERA and coming in fourth in the Cy Young balloting that year.
Since then, Lester hasn’t been quite the same. Whether it was Farrell leaving the Red Sox to become the manager of Toronto Blue Jays, the drama in 2011 or falling in with Josh Beckett might have led to some bad habits for Lester.
In 2012, the 28-year-old Lester simply wasn’t himself, pitching to a 9-14 record with a 4.82, easily the worst full season of his career.
When the Red Sox traded Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the middle of last season, they made Lester the unannounced leader of the Boston rotation for the end of last season and going into this season. Given his poor performance, it was a pretty bold statement.
That is why Lester performance this spring has been so encouraging. He looks like the pitcher who had the career record of 76-34 going into last season, throwing strikes and showing much sharper command.
For the Red Sox to compete this season, they will need Lester to lead the rotation to much better results across the board. If he is the pitcher that can give them 200 innings and keep his ERA around 3.50, then he should win a lot of games with the slightly improved Red Sox offense scoring runs behind him.
With a healthy Lester at the front of the Red Sox rotation this season, pitching to his career norms, it immediately changes Boston from an afterthought in the AL East to a contender in the division.
So far this spring, the Red Sox have to like what they see.
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