Lester: ‘Excited for new era’

Jon Lester spoke to a small gathering of Red Sox fans at today’s Christmas at Fenway event, but the lefthanded starting pitcher did not address the team’s epic 7-20 September collapse or his role in it.

Asked if he had met with new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Lester said, ”Actually, just met him. It was pretty cool to meet him. Talked to him just a little bit and, obviously, we didn’t get into too deep of a conversation in five minutes. It was great to meet him and I’m excited for the new era.”

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But Lester reflected on the passing of another era with the end of Terry Francona’s tenure as Red Sox manager.

“Obviously, I’m sad to see Tito go,” Lester said. “He was a big part of my career, big part of my life coming up through this system. I was sad to see him go, but, like I said, I’m excited for the new era and we’ll see what we can do in the coming years.”

Asked about the prospect of facing Albert Pujols, whom the Angels signed to a blockbuster $254 million deal, Lester replied, “I don’t think I’ve ever faced him. The Angels did a good job. You got to tip your hat to ‘em,” referring to the deals the Angels pulled, also signing coveted pitcher C.J. Wilson to a $77.5 million deal. “They went out and wanted those two guys and they got ‘em,” Lester said. “It obviously makes their team that much better. Luckily, they’re in another division and we don’t have to face them too many times.”

When one fan posed a written question, “What kind of quality do you look for in a catcher,” Lester was quick to reply: “Uh, well, Tek,” referring to Sox captain Jason Varitek.

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When the crowd roared, Lester muttered underneath his breath, “That answer may get me in trouble.” Unbeknowst to the lefthander, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway were sitting backstage within earshot of Lester’s remarks.

“When you think of a catcher, you think of Tek,” Lester said. “He’s the mold. He’s the leader. It’s obvious why he’s had that `C’ on his chest for so long. He’s confident in what he does and I think that aura of knowing what he wants to do with each hitter and having a game plan through the whole game, makes my job a lot easier.

“We have a lot of anxiety out there when you’re trying to figure out nine different hitters and you have so many different situations, so many things going on,” Lester said. “When you have a guy back there who can take the bull by the horns and kind of rein you back in and get you focused on what you’re trying to do, that’s the biggest thing.

“Salty started to learn that this year early,” Lester said, “and he did a good job of getting in there and really trying to mold himself off of Tek.”