All things considered, Jon Lester came away from a conversation with John Farrell feeling optimistic about the Boston Red Sox manager’s Stage 1 lymphoma diagnosis.
On Friday at Fenway Park, Farrell revealed that he will be taking a medical leave of absence and begin chemotherapy, responding to a “highly curable” condition detected this week during hernia surgery.
Farrell had been a huge influence on Lester, helping the lefty develop into one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, someone the Cubs felt comfortable giving a six-year, $155 million megadeal last winter.
Lester beat cancer and earned two World Series rings with the Red Sox while Farrell worked as the pitching coach (2007) and manager (2013).
“I don’t really think you give John too much advice,” Lester said after Friday’s 6-5 win over the White Sox, surrounded by reporters inside U.S. Cellular Field’s visiting clubhouse. “He’s pretty strong-willed. I would imagine he’ll be fine. I’m sure it’s a little bit of a blow for his family. But I’m sure he’ll be fine through this whole process.”
One of Farrell’s three sons – Shane – works for the Cubs in the team’s amateur scouting department. Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo – a managerial candidate the Cubs had on their radar after the 2013 season – will manage the Red Sox for the rest of the season.
Lester received treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital while dealing with his own cancer scare, which cut short his 2006 season after an anaplastic large-cell lymphoma diagnosis that August. By October 2007, Lester beat the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in the game that clinched a World Series title.
“He seems pretty positive,” Lester said. “It’s obviously one of the better places – if not the best place – in the country to be if you do have cancer. He’s in good hands. I know those doctors pretty well.”
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That experience helped shape the “Never Quit” message Lester keeps sending through the charitable foundation he’s aligned with now. Lester met with Anthony Rizzo when the future All-Star first baseman got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a Red Sox prospect in 2008.
“I don’t think you can ever really prepare for a situation like that,” Lester said. “It’s just one of those things you have to ride out. You have to do what the doctors tell you to do.
“You just have to kind of grind through it.”