FORT MYERS, Fla. — The crowd of about 30 people who watched Red Sox ace Jon Lester pitch a minor league game on a wind-swept practice field on Wednesday afternoon included his wife, Farrah, and two young sons along with teammates Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy.
“It’s harder when you don’t have a stadium and the crowd,” said Lester, who threw 94 pitches over six innings in his final game of spring training. “Biggest thing is [staying] healthy.”
The Red Sox were playing the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park off in the distance, the same team Lester will face on Opening Day this Monday. So the decision was made to have the lefthander pitch for Single A Salem against the Fort Myers Twins of the Florida State League. He allowed one run on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.
The run scored in the first inning on a broken-bat single. Lester then retired 14 of the next 16 batters he faced, seven by strikeout.
Lester will be making his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, the longest streak for a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez started seven in a row from 1998-2004.
Lester will become one of six pitchers in team history (since 1914) to start four or more games on Opening Day, joining Martinez, Clemens, Dennis Eckersley, Bill Monbouquette and Mel Parnell.
“Any time that you’re given that right or given that honor, like I’ve said every year, it’s a huge honor to be able to do that, especially for this organization,” Lester said. “Each year is different, each year means a little bit more, a little bit less or whatever. The biggest thing is it’s just a huge honor.”
Lester said there were no updates on talks with the Red Sox on a contract extension. General manager Ben Cherington said earlier this week that he hoped the process would be resolved one way or another by Opening Day.
But Lester again said he would be willing to continue talks into the season if a deal was workable.
“If we’re close, we’ll carry it over. I don’t think that’s a distraction,” he said. “But things are nowhere near being done, that’s a good thing for both sides. You can come and say what needs to be said about it and put it on the back burner. … I think it’s a positive we’re still talking.
Lester took notice of Detroit starter Max Scherzer turning down an offer of six years and $144 million.
Lester is 30 and is 100-56 in his career with a 3.76 ERA. Scherzer is 29 and is 73-45 in his career with a 3.67 ERA. Lester has made 220 career starts and Scherzer 165.
“Personally, if that’s me, that’s hard to walk away from,” Lester said. “But he’s betting on himself. Maybe he really deep down wants to be a free agent. We don’t get to do it very often. Maybe that’s his ultimate thing. I don’t know.”
• Chris Capuano pitched five innings for Single A Greenville and was close to perfect. He didn’t allow a hit, walked two and struck out 10.
• Daniel Nava played center field for six innings for Triple A Pawtucket in a game at the Minnesota complex. He was 3 for 6 with a home run and four RBIs. He took four at-bats righthanded and two lefthanded.
• David Ross caught Lester and was 3 for 6 in the game with a double.