FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With two starts left for Jon Lester, and most of the pitchers, before the regular season begins, the primary focus of this afternoon's start at the minor league complex was to continue to build Lester's pitch count. That, he did. But feeling out of rhythm and off his game, Lester allowed four earned runs on 10 hits in his six innings of work. He walked none, struck out three, and threw 91 pitches, 61 strikes.
"You don't have the intensity that you would normally for a game, but you know you have to put that aside and get your work done," Lester said. "It was a struggle today, but I got up and down six times, got my pitch count up, so I've got to look at it that way. I can't look at the results and worry about all that."
For the first time in a spring training, Lester is allowed to be unconcerned with his results. He knows he'll be in the rotation come the start of the regular season, and no off outings against minor leaguers can change that.
Lester did say that he was able to make some adjustments later in the game, and finished out his outing with a quick sixth inning, in which he allowed one single, then got a double play ball and a fly out to right field.
"Just didn't really feel right," he said. "I was getting out and the times where I'd stay back, I wouldn't finish. The times where I'd get out too quick, I'd try to finish too early. It really just didn't click today. I don't know if it just has to do with not having the adrenaline, not having that little extra gear or what. Just early on pitches weren't crisp. My curveball wasn't sharp. But it felt like later I finally made an adjustment and put some stuff [together] today and had the sharpness to my pitches and started being around where I wanted to be."
Though he said he would have thought he was about ready for the season to begin after his last outing, he now thinks there might be a few mechanical corrections to be made. But he expressed confidence he will be fine by the time the regular season comes around, after two more starts.
There were some defensive problems in the game, including three errors by the second baseman behind Lester, but none of them resulted in unearned runs.
"Seemingly [he] got better as the outing went along when he got more feel and better rhythm," pitching coach John Farrell said. "But again I think throughout the six innings the timing kind of fluctuated, drifted at times. So we've seen him sharper, but at the same time going back to the volume of pitch count and six up and down, [he] was successful here today."