BOSTON -- This has been a lost season for Jon Lester as much as it has for anyone in a Red Sox uniform. The left-hander took the loss Wednesday night in the home finale against the Rays, 4-2.Lester went six innings giving up three runs on four hits and walk with five strikeouts. It was his team-leading 17th quality start of the season. With a one-run lead, he did not allow a hit until there was one out in the fifth inning, a single to Jeff Keppinger. He quickly lost the lead, giving up back-to-back home runs to Carlos Pena, the next batter, and Ben Francisco.Lester fell to 9-14 with a 4.94 ERA. This is his first losing season in his seven-year career.I said before the game he was on the bottom of his tank but he pitched great, said manager Bobby Valentine. Who would have thunk it would be Carlos Pena against left-handers that beat us but I guess thats the way this seasons been going. He made really good pitches the whole night. The 2-1 pitch to Pena might have been in the sweet spot but he grounds out to second on the pitch a lot too. Gave us six innings, four hits, with a little more offense we might have been able to get him a win.Lester has lost each of his last three starts and has not won since Sept. 4 at Seattle, four starts ago.My stuff didn't change, said Lester, who had been under the weather going into the game. Had good stuff through the whole game, but yeah, two pitches.In his career, Pena, a left-handed hitter, is hitting just .206 against left-handed pitchers. But against Lester, he entered the game hitting .267, going 12-for-45. He has seven home runs off Lester.If I knew it wouldnt be that way, Lester said. Everybody has that guy. Im pretty good against other guys and hes pretty good against me.Valentine mentioned before the game he thought Lester was reaching the bottom of his tank. Lester made his 32nd start Wednesday, one behind his career high in 2008. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia checked with the lefty after the fifth inning.Yeah, he was getting real tired, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I asked him if he was okay. You could tell just by his answer he was getting real tired. But he went back out there that next inning and pitched a scoreless inning. Just did a great job, just battled his butt off. Thats what hes done for us all year.Im down in the tank because I was sick, he said. Still taking the ball, still grinding it out. Ive just been under the weather for the past couple of days and that fifth inning kind of took a lot out of me and I didn't think it was fair for me to go back out there when I didnt have anything. I just went ahead and told him that.I felt fine through the whole game. When I got done through that sixth it kind of just hit me. Legs felt tired, body felt tired from being sick. As far as starting off good and being powerful, felt like I had a good fastball, good cutter early on. I had to, I keep saying, buying into what weve been working on and my stuff has gotten better, Ive gotten more consistent, just always comes down to just two pitches, three pitches a game that end up costing me the game.I felt like I threw the hell out of the ball tonight. The Pena ball I wouldnt take back. Wanted it down and away and it was down and away.Lester will have one more start this season, in New York on Tuesday. He cant salvage a winning record, but he can salvage a strong outing to take into the offseason.It would be nice, he said with a laugh. Would be great, but like I said before Im trying to forget about stats, Im trying to forget about wins and losses and ERA and just show my teammates that hey I can take the ball every five days and Im going to compete my butt off and at the end of it if we win we win, if we lose we lose. Im going to do everything I can to control what I can and its all I can do. Just keep taking the ball.
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The starting pitchers for the Red Sox in the first two games of the Grapefruit League season, Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias, are likely going to get major league opportunities in 2018 — and one of them very well might get a look in the first week of the season.
The first four starters the Red Sox will carry are obvious, assuming health: Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello. Alex Cora on Saturday declined to name an Opening Day starter, but Sale is the obvious choice after finishing second in American League Cy Young voting to Corey Kluber. Cora said too that he likely would insert Porcello somewhere in the middle of the rotation, considering the other three aforementioned starters are lefties.
- MORE RED SOX: Sox take it slow with veteran infielder
Where the Sox go beyond those four, though, could be to some relatively unknown quantities.
Steven Wright is rehabbing from knee surgery and awaiting potential discipline from the league office following an offseason arrest on a domestic assault charge. Wright could well be suspended to begin the season, and may not be physically ready to start on the active roster anyway. Eduardo Rodriguez’s own knee surgery has him slated to come back perhaps in late April.
That puts righty Velazquez and lefty Elias in prime position for at least temporary contributions. Both are on the 40-man roster and have big league time. In a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Ray on Saturday, Elias pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, just as Velazquez did Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
- MORE RED SOX: Quick changes in Red Sox approach?
In past seasons, the Red Sox would often have an off-day after their very first game of the regular season, thereby allowing for a fifth starter to be skipped if desired. That’s not the case for this year, with six straight games for the Sox — three vs. the Rays, three vs. the Marlins — before an off-day. Come April 2, then, the Sox will need a fifth starter.
(Whether the Sox even use off-days this year to skip pitchers or just to rest their guys is to be seen. Sale, for example, historically has pitched often on extra rest, and the Sox want to keep him fresh.)
Lefty Brian Johnson could wind up a reliever, but he’s certainly capable of starting. Lefty Jalen Beeks, who is not on the 40-man roster but likely will be at some point this year, is depth as well, just like righty Chandler Shepherd.
• The Sox did say long ago they wanted to add lefty reliever this winter. Now they’ve done it. As depth, anyway. Tommy Layne, last with the Sox in 2016, is back — in minor league camp without an invite to major league spring training. He was a free agent who participated in the camp the Players Association set up for unsigned players in Florida. Don't be surprised if Layne sees some time in big league games anyway.
One area of the Red Sox spring complex has four practice fields aligned, with each field’s home plate positioned at nearly the same point, angled 90 degrees differently. In the past, the Sox more frequently used all four fields at once for the same set of drills. Now, they’ve cut back. The reason is so that coaches can see players better. This way, a coach could catch 50 percent of one pitcher’s live batting-practice and 50 percent of another. Attention is spread too thin if three or four fields are going simultaneously. That was Tony La Russa’s suggestion.
• Rafael Devers has shown some very quick feet in the early going, making a great diving stop to his right on Thursday. On Saturday, he made another smooth play but then threw away a throw to second base.
“Just get one out,” Cora said. “He was trying to get two which is great. This level you’ve got to turn double plays but there there’s certain plays you cant force.”
• Players union head Tony Clark visited camp on Saturday, part of his annual tour to meet different teams. Clark defended the collective bargaining agreement, which has been criticized because it helped create the environment that led to many unsigned free agents.
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Nunez isn’t a starting pitcher, but the Red Sox are going to build him up slowly too.
The infielder (and assumed second baseman in place of the still-recovering Dustin Pedroia) hasn’t seen Grapefruit League action yet.
“Everything he did in the simulated game, he did a lot,” manager Alex Cora said Saturday after a 4-3 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park. “Stole bases..he had to dive [in the field]. I don’t want to push him. Today was a great day for him to just to, instead of being with the guys taking ground balls, we put him aside, just taking it easy, right at him, work on your footwork. Building up. So we’ve got to be fair with him too."
Nunez, 30, a trade deadline acquisition last season from the San Francisco Giants, injured his knee and had to be carried off the field four pitches into the A.L. Division Series loss to the Houston Astros.
“Over the course of the offseason it was more rehabbing for him and getting his strength back," Cora said. "We’ll take it easy with him. He’ll probably DH before he plays second or third or short or the outfield. But today I saw him taking ground balls before the live BP, and he did a good job moving his feet and working at third base too.”
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