advertising
Link to jump to start of content The Seattle Times Company Jobs Autos Homes Rentals NWsource Classifieds seattletimes.com
Sports

Friday, July 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Print

Next M's Opponent: Boston's new star is home to shine

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Pawtucket Red Sox were in Indianapolis in mid-June when manager Ron Johnson called Jon Lester into his office to take a phone call.

The news, delivered from Boston via speaker phone, was big: Lester would start at Fenway Park in two days against the Texas Rangers.

"It was neat, because Jon wasn't overwhelmed," Johnson recalled. "He was like, 'All right. It's about time.' Because in his mind, he was a major-league pitcher. And now he's showing us he is."

Indeed, Lester has become a rookie sensation with the Red Sox, just like his former minor-league teammate, Jon Papelbon. Lester, who grew up a Mariners fan in Tacoma, will bring a 5-0 record and 2.38 earned-run average to the mound Sunday at Safeco Field when he faces Seattle in his ninth career start.

Lester's ascension to major-league success at age 22 comes barely four years after the Red Sox made him their top pick in the 2002 draft out of Bellarmine Prep — No. 57 overall — and gave him the highest signing bonus of any second-rounder that year, $1 million.

He has been a godsend for the first-place Red Sox, who are trying to hold off the Yankees amid a slew of pitching injuries, including David Wells, Matt Clement and, most recently, Tim Wakefield.

Mariners update


Tonight: Boston at Seattle, 7:05 p.m., FSN/KOMO (1000 AM)

Starting pitchers: M's Jamie Moyer (5-8, 3.75) vs. Kyle Snyder (1-1, 10.03)

That includes a victory over the Nationals in his third start in which Lester struck out 10 in six innings, and eight innings of one-hit shutout ball against the Royals on Tuesday.

"Jon's been fantastic," said Jed Hoyer, the Red Sox assistant general manager. "He's been able to step in seamlessly."

Bellarmine coach Rick Barnhart has watched from afar with an almost paternal pride as Lester has become the first Red Sox rookie left-hander to start his career with five straight wins.

"To get to that level is pretty unique," said Barnhart, who just finished his 22nd year at the Tacoma school.

"But as a coach, he was one of those once-in-a-lifetime guys. You could just tell. I mean, he was MVP in the league as a freshman. You could see him handle pressure situations really well. You knew if anyone had a shot to make it, he was certainly legitimate."

Barnhart recalled when Lester turned out for baseball as a freshman.

"Being a private school, you never know who you're going to get," he said. "You hear this kid is great, he'll probably play right away. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jon turned out with the freshmen one day. The coaches looked at each other and said, 'I don't think so. He's coming with me.' "

Virtually from the moment he signed, Lester has been on the fast track to Fenway — though that path was nearly derailed before the 2004 season when the Rangers insisted he be a part of their proposed Alex Rodriguez trade. That deal fell through, and the Sox refused to yield to Florida's insistence, this past winter, that Lester be a part of the Josh Beckett trade.

Lester is compared most frequently to two Marks — lefties Mulder and Langston.

In rating Lester as the No. 22 prospect in baseball before this season, Baseball America quoted Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod conveying the Sox company line: "The first time I saw him pitch, I called [general manager] Theo Epstein and said, 'Whatever you do, don't trade Jon Lester.' "

That sentiment was supported by Todd Claus, manager of Boston's Class AA affiliate, the Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs.

"It would have been very tempting to give away Papelbon and Lester in trades for now-needs, but Theo keeps the big picture," Claus said. "He's not willing to mortgage the farm for a quick fix.

"I don't think Theo or anyone in our organization calls any player untouchable, because they don't want to close themselves off to any deals. But if there's any such thing, Jonny fits into that mold."

Last year, under Claus, Lester had his breakout season with an 11-6 record that included the lowest ERA in the Eastern League (2.61) and a league-leading 163 strikeouts in 148-1/3 innings. He commands four pitches, including a fastball that touches 95 mph, a devastating cutter, a curveball and changeup.

"I've always maintained from the first day I saw him he's one of the best prospects in the minor leagues I've ever seen," Claus said. "I've always believed he'd be a front end of the rotation starter. I just didn't know he'd have this kind of success this soon."

After a rocky spring — six innings, 12 hits, 19.50 ERA — Lester started the year in Class AAA at Pawtucket under a strict pitch count, a source of great frustration to him.

"Being on this pitch-count thing sucks, but I have to do what the Red Sox want me to do," he wrote in his weekly Baseball America diary.

Limited to four innings or 60 pitches, Lester stood to earn only a loss or at best a no-decision in most starts, reflected in his 0-4 record and 6.94 ERA in April.

That included a late April game against Tampa Bay's Durham, N.C., farm team in which Lester fanned the top hitting prospect in the minors, Delmon Young. The called third strike so infuriated Young that he flung his bat at the umpire and earned a 50-game suspension.

After Lester's pitch count was extended a bit, he ran off a 3-0, 1.29 stretch in May and June that led to his promotion.

"I think you can take his record and throw it out," Johnson said. "We were trying to prepare him for the big leagues, and it's all playing out the way we wanted."

Said Hoyer, "Now we're not worried about how he'll hold up later. He'll only get stronger."

All of Lester's past coaches and managers speak highly of his work ethic and attitude. He got a big help in developing both from Curt Schilling, who took an interest in Lester's career in spring training and kept in contact with him at Pawtucket.

"He's an awesome kid," Barnhart said. "When he was a senior, there would be 25 to 30 scouts at every game. He'd get 10 to 15 calls a day — all this notoriety. But you wouldn't know it.

"It's hard not to have it go to your head a little bit when you're 17. It's pretty fun stuff for a kid. But it was never an issue. He handled it really well. He's got great parents. He was the hardest-working kid on the team. After we were all done, he'd do extra running."

Claus calls Lester "sort of the All-American boy. He's 6 foot 5, and big, and left-handed. That's what they look like. That's what a major-league starter looks like."

And Sunday, for the first time, his hometown fans will get to see him in that role for the Red Sox.

Beginner's luck
The career starts of Red Sox rookie pitcher Jon Lester from Tacoma:
Date Opp. Score Dec. IP H R ER BB K
June 10 Texas L 7-4 4.1 5 3 3 4 4
June 16 Atlanta W 4-1 W 6.0 5 1 1 3 5
June 21 Washington W 9-3 W 6.0 3 1 1 2 10
June 27 N.Y. Mets W 9-4 W 5.0 4 2 2 5 5
July 2 Florida W 4-3 5.0 7 2 2 3 3
July 7 White Sox W 7-2 W 6.0 6 2 2 3 3
July 13 Oakland L 5-4 5.0 5 1 1 5 3
July 18 Kansas City W 1-0 W 8.0 1 0 0 4 4
Season totals W-L: 5-0 ERA: 2.38 K: 37 BB: 29


Mariners statistics
(through Thursday)

BATTERS Avg AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Ichiro .343 405 72 139 10 6 6 32 31
Betancourt .294 320 40 94 13 4 5 33 9
Perez .294 109 17 32 9 0 8 22 0
Johjima .287 293 36 84 16 1 10 42 1
Lopez .279 373 51 104 20 7 9 58 2
Ibanez .276 370 58 102 19 5 21 78 2
Beltre .256 367 52 94 25 4 7 39 10
Bloomquist .252 127 20 32 3 1 0 7 7
Everett .228 294 34 67 8 0 11 32 1
Sexson .226 354 38 80 18 0 19 65 1
Reed .217 212 27 46 6 5 6 17 2
Rivera .173 52 6 9 3 0 2 3 0
Jones .118 17 0 2 0 0 0 0 0
Dobbs .000 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team .266 3310 449 879 148 33 97 417 67
PITCHERS W-L ERA SV IP H ER BB SO
Lowe 1-0 0.00 0 5.2 5 0 0 7
Soriano 1-1 2.10 2 51.1 37 12 15 57
Putz 1-0 2.38 18 45.1 30 12 7 60
Sherrill 2-2 3.42 1 26.1 17 10 18 29
Moyer 5-8 3.75 0 127.1 134 53 31 68
Meche 9-4 3.83 0 122.1 112 52 47 101
Washburn 4-10 4.41 0 118.1 121 58 32 62
Woods 2-1 4.42 1 36.2 34 18 24 27
Fruto 0-1 4.80 1 15.0 18 8 10 15
Hernandez 8-8 4.89 0 110.1 120 60 34 102
Mateo 5-4 5.05 0 35.2 41 20 17 21
Pineiro 6-8 5.79 0 112.0 141 72 38 53
Green 0-0 6.19 0 16.0 15 11 10 12
Team 45-50 4.37 28 854.2 868 415 302 641

 

The week ahead

F vs. Boston

7:05 p.m., FSN

LH Jamie Moyer (5-8)  vs. RH Kyle Snyder (1-1)

Sa vs. Boston

1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

RH Felix Hernandez (8-8) vs. TBA

Su vs. Boston

1:05 p.m., Ch. 11

LH Jarrod Washburn (4-10) vs. LH Jon Lester (5-0)

M vs. Toronto

7:05 p.m., FSN

RH Joel Pineiro (6-8) vs. RH Casey Janssen (6-9)

T vs. Toronto

7:05 p.m., FSN

RH Gil Meche (9-4) vs. RH Roy Halladay (12-2)

W vs. Toronto

7:05 p.m., FSN

LH Jamie Moyer (5-8) vs. RH A.J. Burnett (1-3)

For the record

M's W-L PCT.
45-50 .474

W/L streak: W-1

At home: 24-24

On road: 21-26

vs. AL West: 10-18

vs. Angels: 7-5

vs. Oakland: 1-9

vs. Texas: 2-4

vs. AL East: 9-11

vs. AL Cen.: 12-17

vs. NL: 14-4

vs. LHP: 10-16

vs. RHP: 35-34

Day: 13-18

Night: 32-32

1-run: 10-14

Extra innings: 3-7

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

advertising

advertising

TV/Radio listings

Monday, May 6

Pro baseballTVRadio
4:07 p.m.Seattle at TorontoROOT710
7 p.m.PCL, Reno at Tacoma850
7:30 p.m.*Seattle at TorontoROOT
NBA basketball playoffs
4 p.m.New York at BostonESPN
4 p.m.Indiana at AtlantaESPN2
6:30 p.m.Oklahoma City at HoustonESPN
6:30 p.m.L.A. Clippers at MemphisESPN2
NHL hockey playoffs
4 p.m.Ottawa at MontrealCBUT
4 p.m.N.Y. Islanders at PittsburghNBCSN
4 p.m.Ottawa at MontrealCNBC
6:30 p.m.Minnesota at ChicagoNBCSN
6:30 p.m.Minnesota at ChicagoCBUT
7 p.m.San Jose at VancouverCNBC950, 102.9
Pro golf
6 a.m.*European Tour, China OpenGOLF
9:30 a.m.LPGA Tour, Kingsmill ChampionshipGOLF
NoonPGA Tour, Wells Fargo ChampionshipGOLF
4:30 p.m.*Champions Tour, Insperity Champ.GOLF
Auto racing
9 a.m.NASCAR Nationwide 312 qualifyingESPN2
11 a.m.NASCAR Sprint Cup 499 practiceSPEED
12:30 p.m.NASCAR Sprint Cup 499 practiceSPEED
2 p.m.ARCA Talladega 250SPEED
Horse racing
2 p.m.Kentucky OaksNBCSN
WHL hockey playoffs final
10:30 p.m.*Edmonton at PortlandROOT
College lacrosse
2:30 a.m.* (Sat.)ECAC Semis, Loyola,Md.vs.Ohio St.ROOT
College softball
4 p.m.Oregon St. at OregonPAC-12
6 p.m.Arizona St. at ArizonaPAC-12
IIHF hockey
2 a.m. (Sat.)United States vs. AustriaNBCSN
* Delayed broadcast

Complete TV/Radio listings

Times writers on the radio

950 KJR

  • Mariners reporter Geoff Baker appears at 9 a.m. Tuesdays with Mitch Levy.
  • Columnist Jerry Brewer appears daily with Elise Woodward 10 a.m. to noon as well as on the Seahawks Roundtable at 8:20 a.m. Thursdays during the NFL season.
  • UW reporter Bob Condotta appears on the Husky Roundtable at 8:20 a.m. Mondays during the college football season.
  • Baseball reporter Larry Stone appears at 8 a.m. Fridays with Mitch Levy.
  • UW reporter Percy Allen appears at noon every Saturday with Jeff Aaron.

* = tape delayed

Complete TV/Radio listingsMore

AL West W L Pct. GB Div. Streak
y-LA Angels 100 62 .617 --- 36-21 Won 1
Texas 79 83 .488 21 30-27 Lost 1
Oakland 75 86 .466 24.5 26-31 Lost 5
Seattle 61 101 .377 39 22-35 Won 3

y - clinched division, x - clinched playoff berth

Wild card standings | AL standings | NL standings

Sign up for daily sports e-mails

Have top Seattle Times headlines delivered to your inbox each morning for sports, Mariners, Sonics, Storm, Seahawks, Huskies, Cougars and high school.



Recreation calendar
Detailed listings of community sports activities.

Sports cartoon

Updated every Sunday.

How to contact sports

Email: sports@seattletimes.com

Phone: (206) 464-2276

Fax: (206) 464-3255

Letters

E-mail: Cathy Henkel, Sports Editor, chenkel@seattletimes.com

Snail mail: Sports Editor, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111

More info.


advertising

Local sales & deals Play games Find a job
Search for a job
Job type