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Jon Lester

Boston Red Sox — No. 31
Starting pitcher
Born: January 7, 1984 (1984-01-07) (age 26)
Tacoma, Washington
Bats: Left Throws: Left 
MLB debut
June 10, 2006 for the Boston Red Sox
Career statistics
(through 2009 season)
Win-Loss     42-16
Earned run average     3.66
Strikeouts     487
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Jonathan Tyler Lester (born January 7, 1984, in Tacoma, Washington) is a left-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who plays for the Boston Red Sox.[1] Less than two years after being diagnosed with lymphoma, Lester pitched the final game of the 2007 World Series, and in May 2008, threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals.

Contents

Career

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High school

Lester attended Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Washington, where he was a three-time MVP and three-time All-Area selection. In addition he was named Gatorade State Player of the Year for Washington in 2000.

Professional

The Red Sox drafted Lester in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2002 draft and gave him the highest signing bonus of any second-rounder that year, $1 million.

Lester quickly moved through the Red Sox organization, posting an 11–6 record, a league-leading 2.61 ERA and a league-best 163 strikeouts for the AA Portland Sea Dogs in 2005. He was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year and was selected as the left-handed pitcher on the Eastern League's year-end All-Star team and on the year-end Topps AA All-Star squad.[2]

Lester has been one of the Red Sox' top-rated prospects since he signed with the team, and other major league teams have made efforts to acquire him. The Texas Rangers had demanded Lester be part of the proposed but ultimately rejected deal before the 2004 season for Alex Rodriguez.[3] The Florida Marlins insisted he be included in the trade for Josh Beckett before the 2006 season, but again, the Sox were able to keep Lester.[4]

2006

With a rash of injuries and general ineffectiveness of several Red Sox starters, the team called up Lester on June 10, 2006 to make his major league debut against the Texas Rangers. He put up a 4.76 ERA in 81.1 innings pitched in 2006, his rookie year. Jon Lester was diagnosed with a treatable cancer in the middle of the season. He finished the season with a 7-2 record.

2007

Lester before the Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

In the 2007 World Series, Lester won the series-clinching Game Four for the Red Sox, pitching 5⅔ shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and 3 walks while collecting 3 strikeouts. Lester became just the third pitcher in World Series history to win a series clinching game in his first post-season start.

Rumors swirled again in the 2007 offseason when the Minnesota Twins were looking to trade star ace Johan Santana. The Red Sox proposed multiple offers to the Twins for Santana—including one package that would have traded Lester and other prospects—but the Twins ultimately dealt Santana to the New York Mets.

2008

In 2008, Lester went 16–6 with a 3.21 ERA and emerged as a top lefty pitcher in the AL. Along with his no-hitter, he also pitched a complete game five-hit shut out in his first start at Yankee Stadium. He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in July and September. Lester was also a key figure in the Red Sox' victory over the Angels in the American League Divisional Series, pitching 14 innings without allowing an earned run. Lester has the second highest winning percentage of all starting pitchers over the last three years (27-8, .771), and also led the Red Sox in innings pitched in 2008 with 210.3.[5]

Lester's losses in Games 3 and 7 of the 2008 ALCS were the first losses he had ever had in consecutive starts.[6]

2009

On March 8, 2009, Lester agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract extension with a $14 million team option in 2014.[7]

On June 6, 2009, Lester made his bid for a second no-hitter against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers at Fenway. He pitched 6 1/3 perfect innings, striking out 10 batters, on only 61 pitches through the first six innings. Michael Young hit a one-out double to left center field in the 7th inning to break up the no-hitter, but Lester stayed in to pitch a complete game, striking out a total of 11 batters, giving hm 23 Ks in two starts (he had a career-best 12 Ks his previous start).

On August 14, 2009, Lester struck out 10 batters for the sixth time in the 2009 season, the most times ever by a Red Sox lefty.

Pitching style

Lester, a left-hander, pitches from a low three-quarters arm angle with a deceptive delivery. He features a four-seam fastball (92-97 mph), a cut fastball (86-89), a two-seam fastball, a changeup, and a good curveball (72-78). Lester can pitch himself into and out of jams due to his sometimes sporadic control, but has historically avoided bases-unloaded damage.

No-hitter

On May 19, 2008, Lester threw his first career Major League no-hitter,[8] and the 18th in Red Sox history, in a 7-0 win against the Kansas City Royals. Lester threw 130 pitches in the game, allowing only two walks and striking out 9 batters, although he was charged with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the second inning. It was the first no-hitter thrown by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher since Mel Parnell in 1956, the first in MLB since Clay Buchholz's September 2007 no-hitter, and the MLB-record fourth no-hitter caught by Jason Varitek. It was also only the second no-hitter ever pitched against the Royals; Nolan Ryan pitched the other in 1973.

After the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who earlier in the day had attended his son's commencement ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying, "This probably isn't fair to say, but I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter. It's probably selfish on my part to even say something like that. But I think it's obvious how we feel about this kid."[9]

Just as Clay Buchholz's no-hitter was preserved by a diving play by rookie second basemen Dustin Pedroia, Lester's was preserved by a diving catch by rookie center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to end the fourth inning.[10]

Personal life

On January 9, 2009, he married his girlfriend Farrah Johnson, whom he met in 2007 while making rehab starts in single-A Greenville.[11]

Battle with lymphoma

On August 27, 2006, Lester was scratched from his scheduled start against the Oakland Athletics due to a sore back. The following day he was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and was sent back to Boston for testing. At the time, Lester's back problems were thought to be the result of a car crash he was involved in earlier in the month. On August 31 it was reported that Lester had been diagnosed with enlarged lymph nodes and was being tested for a variety of ailments, including forms of cancer.[12] A few days later, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that Lester had a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.[13]

Lester underwent off-season chemotherapy treatments at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, named after the former MLB pitcher and manager whose life was cut short by cancer at age 45 in 1964. In December 2006, ESPN.com reported that Lester's latest CT Scan showed no signs of the disease, which appeared to be in remission. Lester attended spring training in 2007, and started the season for the class A Greenville Drive. Lester then started for AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in late April 2007.[14] In June, Lester was removed from the disabled list, and sent to Pawtucket for further rehab outings.[15] Lester made his first 2007 start for the Boston Red Sox on July 23 against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, pitching 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and struck out 6, picking up the win. Lester started and won the clinching game of the 2007 World Series, Game 4 against the Colorado Rockies.

To honor Lester's comeback from lymphoma, the Boston Baseball Writers' Association of America voted him the 2007 Tony Conigliaro Award.[16] In an appropriate coincidence, Lester also received the 2008 Hutch Award, given to the Major League player who "best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire" of Hutchinson, after whom Lester's treatment center was named.[17][18]

References

  1. ^ Player Profile on mlb.com
  2. ^ The Official Site of The Boston Red Sox: Team: Player Information : Biography and Career Highlights
  3. ^ Go 2 Guy: Lester went from MLB to cancer ward and back again
  4. ^ This Marlin a pretty big fish for Sox to land
  5. ^ Chuck, Bill. 100 random things about the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, The Boston Globe. Published April 2, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  6. ^ "Jon Lester 2008 Pitching Gamelogs - Baseball-Reference.com". Sports Reference LLC. http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=lestejo01&t=p&year=2008. Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  7. ^ Lester lands five-year extension with Red Sox
  8. ^ Ian Browne (2008-05-19). "Lester hurls 18th Red Sox no-no". http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080519&content_id=2731480&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=bos. Retrieved 2008-05-19.  
  9. ^ Lester traveled hard road to no-hitter ESPN.com
  10. ^ No-hitter not possible without Ellsbury
  11. ^ "Jon Lester Off The Marriage Market". wbztv.com. 2008-07-11. http://wbztv.com/sports/jon.lester.engaged.2.768683.html.  
  12. ^ Error - BostonHerald.com
  13. ^ ESPN (2006-12-05). "Report: Lester's latest CT scan clean". ESPN.com. http://redsox.bostonherald.com/redSox/view.bg?articleid=155533&srvc=sports. Retrieved December 5 2006.  
  14. ^ Associated Press (2006-09-01). "Sox: Lester has treatable form of lymphoma.". Boston Herald. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2686799. Retrieved September 1 2006.  
  15. ^ "Red Sox option LHP Jon Lester to Pawtucket". MLB.com. 2007-06-11. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20070611&content_id=2019871&vkey=pr_bos&fext=.jsp&c_id=bos.  
  16. ^ Lester gets the honor - Extra Bases - Red Sox blog
  17. ^ http://www.ibtimes.com/prnews/20081007/wa-hutch-award-finals.htm
  18. ^ http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=484840

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