Results tagged ‘ Jon Lester ’

Cherington on the state of reeling Red Sox

For the second time in 15 days, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed faith in his highly-underachieving team and forecasts an in-season turnaround that may not have to occur because of blockbuster trades.

Trades aren’t the be all-end-all at this point:  “I don’t know about moves. We’re obviously not happy with where we are. Ultimately, we’re 18-25, that’s not up to our standards, that’s not where we want to be ultimately. It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s gonna get better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year. Most of that is still going to come from within with guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to and then if we can do that and start playing a little better and win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on. At this point, this early in the season, we’re still just mostly focused on the guys that are here and finding a way to play better with the guys that are here.”

Pressed again about making moves, Cherington offered this:  “I think there’s a need to play better and there’s the need to find ways to get better and all sorts of ways and again, that’s my responsibility. Not saying we wouldn’t consider moves. It’s just that this early in the season, typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals. I wouldn’t rule it out but, we’ll see. Because of that, look, we’re gonna get Victorino back, we’re going to get hopefully our core lineup out there more consistently moving forward and we believe in that core lineup and that core group of players and we believe we have a lot of wins in us with that core, without adding to it. if we can add to it, whether it’s sooner or later or towards the deadline in a way that makes sense, of course we’re going to work to do it in a way that makes sense. Again, that’s up to me. But just mostly focused still on the guys who are here.”

Injuries no excuse: “I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. We’ve had some injuries. Every team has injuries. I think our job is to be good enough and deep enough to play through the injuries and still win games and hang in there through the tougher times. So I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. It would be better not to have injuries. I don’t know. it’s a variety of things. I think we would have guessed coming into the year that in all likelihood we would face a little more adversity this year than we did last year. it’s just the way baseball goes and we have in different ways. Offensively, we just haven’t clicked in any sort of consistent way. we’ve been in most games because we’ve been running pretty good pitchers out there most often whether it’s the starters or the bullpen mostly keeping us in games. We just haven’t clicked offensively and I can’t point to one thing. for the reason, we know we have to get better. We believe we will. We’re not there yet.”

How much longer can they go with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr.? “You know, we’ve got to play better and you’re talking about two very different players there so in jackie’s case, he’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments. He’s here working every day to get better.He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder. In Grady’s case, we’ve seen flashes, as I said 10 days ago. I think he would tell you he hasn’t’ been as consistent as he’d like to be. Hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to. Look, we’re all in this together, we know collectively we’ve got to get better. We all have to perform better, that starts with me. And we just have to make that happen. we’re not ready to proclaim that this has to happen or that has to happen or there needs to be any particular move. We just have to play better.”

Pressed again on Sizemore:  “He’s here. He’s one of our 25 guys. John’s trying to put him in positions to succeed. We believe Grady Sizemore is going to be a good Major League player again. We’re going to do whatever we can to help him be that guy here. We’ll see. We just have to play better, the whole team has to play better. I have to do my part. If we all do that, we’ll look up and things will look a lot better 10 days from now.”

On the struggling offense of the outfield:   “Well it’s still evolving you know? We came into the year obviously thinking in left field we were going to have something analogous to last year, a combination with Gomes and Nava or some other left-handed hitter. In right field we certainly expected Victorino out there, we hope that he will be out there soon. And in spring training the question was on center field and ultimately Grady played his way onto the team and then we had an injury so Jackie ended up on the team and his defense was so good that he kind of takes over. Look we expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back this winter, we just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything has really changed there. We just haven’t had that corner group out there consistently and we haven’t had the production out of the corners that we thought we would and need to have.

Cherington didn’t say if part of the agreement of Drew’s contract was that he be recalled after the minimum 10 days were used in his Minor League option: “I don’t want to get into the specifics of our discussion before signing him but we definitely felt like given where he was physically at the time of the signing that it wouldn’t take him a long time in the minor leagues to be able to help our team. There’s a different between being at maximum capacity and full speed with perfect timing and all that, there’s a difference between that and helping a major league team. And we felt like Stephen drew made us a more complete roster, a better, deeper roster, even if he was still working on some things. So we signed him with the understanding that assuming he physically checked out that he’d be on the team son, as soon as we could and that’s the way it turned out. We don’t have any regrets for that. We also knew we might have to manage his playing time a little bit early on, so it’s not unexpected that he’s getting a day here and there. All the reasons we signed him are still in place and we’ll see how it works out.”

In hindsight, did  Cherington need more outfield depth going into the season? “I guess you can never have enough right? We felt we did. There was a combination of guys including Nava, Carp, Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Sizemore, Brentz and down the line we felt we had enough good players, enough good options to be deep enough in the outfield. There has been a combination of underperformance to some of those guys and injuries to others that kind of tapped into that a little bit, so it showed up. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure that out and get better. We felt that we did have enough depth. To this point we haven’t gotten the production out of the outfield that we need to. We still feel like we can and it’s up to us to figure that out.

Cherington was stunned to see it written somewhere that the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew because of pressure in the media, and staunchly denied it: “False. I was really surprised to see that today. We know Stephen Drew really well. We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew. We had been talking internally for a little while, and then on a Friday, our third baseman got hurt, and we expected, based on the initial evaluation, that Will might miss a significant amount of time. At that point, during that game, we were 20-20, and scratching and clawing for every win and certainly right in the mix in the AL East. We had known, if there was an area on the team that we wanted to add some depth to, it was the left side of the infield. It wasn’t a reflection on any of the players we had. We want as many good players as we can for each spot. It happened to be that Will got hurt, Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially, an area of need, so we have a guy who we trust, who we like, who’s a good player, who’s a trustworthy player, who’s been here and done that who’s available to sign without giving talent, so we did it. I made that recommendation, and I would make that recommendation again.”

Trade Jon Lester if the team falls out of contention and there is no progress with his contract situation? “We haven’t even thought about that. Jon’s focus is to go out and pitch every five days and help us win, and he’s done a very good job of that this year. We’re trying to support him in any way we can. Our position hasn’t changed. We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we’re just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”

John Lackey might retire rather than pitch for the player minimum that his contract dictates next year? “No. I have not heard anything about it. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know — I’m not sure I’m the person to respond to it. This is more of a question for John, I guess. But I know that, the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he likes being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete and be a guy, I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s going to keep pitching for quite some time. I haven’t heard anything about that, and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”

 On Clay Buchholz: “Physically, he says he feels good, and we were able to identify a couple of things in the delivery that he thinks and we think can help him. It’s likely a gradual thing, right? It’s not going to be — typically players don’t go from struggling to lights out overnight, but there are some tangible things that he’s identified that will help him, and he’s been doing that. He’s been working on that. He’ll pitch in the minor leagues a little bit to start, and we’ll see where we are.”

Another Opening Day of Spring Training

The slate of Spring Training games started for the Red Sox on Feb. 27. But in essence, today is the true start.

This represents the closest thing manager John Farrell has had to an Opening Day lineup.

Sizemore, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, Nava, Victorino (Spring Training debut), Bogaerts, Pierzynski, Middlebrooks. And Jon Lester, who is all but certain to start on Opening Day, is making his first Grapefruit League start.

“We’re starting to get what shapes up to be our regular roster back on the field. And as we talked about yesterday, this next turn through the rotation we’ll have all of our projected starters on the mound,” said manager John Farrell. “Clay did an outstanding job yesterday and I think the more we get that continuity from the starting staff, as we’ll achieve here in spring training, I think it sets the tone for everything else. and the fact that we get Vic on the field today for the first time, this is definitely a positive step.”

What is Farrell looking to accomplish over the final three weeks of Spring Training?

“To get all of our starters built up to the appropriate number of pitches inside of a given game,” Farrell said. “To make sure our everyday players have gotten there 55 to 65 at-bats in camp. That Vic gets on the field with regularity and gets past some of the physical challenges, the physical challenges. And not just Vic, but any of our guys getting past the physical challenges that they face. And then for us to get a more accurate read on where Grady Sizemore is.”

Toward that end, Sizemore will start again on Tuesday, marking the first time he’ll go back-to-back this spring.

John Farrell also confirmed that the way his rotation is lined up now is likely the way it will be to start the season. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz.

Lester gets the nod for Opener

Jon Lester might have had a down year in 2012, but the Red Sox still view him as an ace. And that’s why the lefty will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on Monday for Opening Day.

After weeks of speculation, manager John Farrell finally made it official on Wednesday morning. Lester will be Boston’s first pitcher out of the gate for the third consecutive season.

The news was revealed just hours before Lester got ready to make his final start of Spring Training against the Miami Marlins.

“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” said Farrell. “At the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of Spring Training for every pitcher, including Jon, before we got into the rotation [order].”

In his first five starts of Grapefruit League action, Lester went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, looking a lot more like the pitcher who dominated in 2008-11 than the one who stumbled last year.

“He’s gotten back to a delivery that was similar to what he had in the past,” Farrell said. “I think he’s executing pitches with the consistency we saw before that made him one of the top left-handers in the game. He’s had a very strong Spring Training. “

Right-handers Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in New York, pitching Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Left-hander Felix Doubront and righty John Lackey will round out the rotation, pitching the first two games in Toronto.

Buchholz is on tap to pitch the Home Opener on April 8 against the Orioles.

Lester was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in 2012.

“I didn’t really like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched,” Lester said earlier this spring. “That’s solely on me – that’s not on anyone else, that’s not on the revolving door of pitching coaches, that’s not on our manager, that’s not on anybody but myself. I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again.”

Surprising rumor surfaces involving Lester

While it should be noted that teams discuss hundreds of conceptual trades during the winter that never see the light of day, a a lot of them never even reach the rumor mill. However, one surprising one was reported on Monday night.

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reported that the Red Sox and Royals discussed a potential blockbuster that would send Boston lefty Jon Lester to Kansas City for top Royals outfield prospect Wil Myers. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford confirmed the report. Both writers said that no deal is close at this time.

It’s surprising, however, that the Red Sox would even discuss trading Lester, long a cornerstone of their rotation. But Lester is coming off the worst season of his career (9-14, 4.82 ERA) and is two years away from free agency.

Perhaps Boston just wanted to gauge his value. As for Myers, he is an intriguing soon-to-be 22-year-old prospect who hit .304 at Triple-A last season with 24 homers, 79 RBIs and a .932 OPS.

Farrell opens up on variety of topics

John Farrell was the man of the hour on Tuesday, unveiled as the 46th manager in Red Sox history.

Here are some of the many topics he discussed.

Can the Red Sox contend in 2013? “I think a couple of things will need to happen. certain players return to the form and the performance that they’ve established for themselves and not just one-year situation. Guys who have estabilished a cereer path and a career recod of being above average and get the guys back who were taken out because of injury, to get them back fully healthy and then whatever additions are brought forward into this group. I think this has got an opportunity to be a fairly quick turnaournd and get to the point of contending next year.”

Where do thing stand with the coaching staff? “I wouldn’t say were really advanced. I would say we’ve got a number of names who are candidates for the roles that exist. Still determining the coaches who were here last year and will they continue to go forward. We’re probably in the third or fourth inning.”

How critical is the pitching coach hire? “Yeah, I think with any position, I think stablility is critical. I think it’s important to know for the pitching coach to know coming in this isn’t going to be a position, because so much has been brought out with the return here, that it’s not going to be micromanaged. Certainly there’s going to be involvement but that person needs the freedom to do his job and to the best of his ability. That’s why, to me, it’s important to get the most qualified pitching coach available and bring him in here.”

In essence, here was Farrell’s mission statement.   “As far as what you can expect on the field, I truly believe that in an uptempo aggressive style of play. It will certainly take into account the strength of our roster. That’s a given. But I think to play that style of game, it does create an attitude, which I think is critical to win at the major league level, and that’s to be relentless.  With our effort, with our preparation, with the work and the competitiveness that we take the field every night, that is of the utmost importance of how we play. So for the fans that will watch this team take the field, that’s, in some ways, a non negotiable as far as I look at it. our effort is controlled every night. It’s something we can control.

“And to give forth our best effort is a minimum. As far as dealing with players, I firmly believe that there’s an amount of professionalism that every player who comes to the big leagues and certainly would come to the Red Sox would have. That guides their preparation, their motivation, all those adjectives you can attest to it or attach to it. most importantly, because I’ve been here before, there will be no taking for granted that relationships exist. I will work my butt off to earn their trust, earn their respect and create an environment in that clubhouse that is just that. it’s a trusting that, it will be a learning one, and yes, it will be a competitive one and hopefully a very successful one at the same time. If that’s being described as a player’s manager, then maybe that’s what I am. That’s still forming. I’m still learning.

“But I feel, as I mentioned before, I’m in a much better place today than I was two years ago because of those experiences. And finally, my many conversations over the last few days with Ben, we do have a number of things we’ve got to take care of. First will be the staff to get that in place and that’s ongoing. We’ll have those updates as they become available. Just one note, on probably the attributes and the characteristics of the people that we would like to assemble here – they are guys that are going to be credible. They will have different sets of experiences. But the fact that they will have the players backs and interests in their minds, maybe their guide, will be a criteria that I’ll look to include in every guy that’s added to the staff. I think it’s critical that we work as a unity. There’s the ability to challenge once another and express opinions in that coach’s room and in our offices downstairs, but when we go out, we will be on the same page and working on one voice and I think that’s something that’s important to the overall approach of a club. We’re eager to get started and hit the ground running.”

Changing the culture in the clubhouse? “I can’t speak to what the Red Sox clubhouse was last year. I think it’s important that we communicate consistently to the players, we outline expectations and we have to hold players accountable to what we’re trying to get done. That’s leading people. At the same time, they have to have a voice in this to give their input. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a leader at the head or a rudder to guide the ship. But I think it’s important their inclusion is there. It has to be a positive place that they want to come to every single day.”

Things he learned from Toronto. “There were times where I could have, and this comes from those experiences in Toronto, in my relationship with Alex and the conversations we would have regarding the roster, there might have been opportunities for me to speak a little bit more passionately towards some suggestions or recommendations to the roster. We also introduced and brought in a number of young players. We created a diverse offense that was aggressive. We looked to incorporate a much more aggressive running game. Some of that was overboard and some of that we ran into some outs. Creating that environment and that approach and then putting young players into it, there probably were opportunities where I should have shut them down as far as the Xs and Os of the game. Maybe I would have changed closers a little bit quicker.”

What makes Boston so special? “One, I think Boston is in my mind and it may be debatable across the country, this is the epicenter of the game. To come in and have at least four years experience previous to, not having sat in this seat, but close to it to see the demands of this position and the passion of this region, the energy that’s in this ballpark every single night. That energy and what people expect holds our players accountable for the effort they put out every single night. Yes, there are some relationships still existing with some of the players here, but by no means will that be taken for granted. There’s familiarity, there’s an understanding maybe of the person I am and who they are, but it’ll be my approach to go back in — and it’s already started with conversations; I had a sitdown with David here earlier today — to start to earn his  trust and regain and reestablish all those relationships.”

Helping to restore Lester, Buchholz, etc.   “Setting aside Jon’s mention, setting aside Clay’s name, we all recognize how important pitching and particularly starting pitching. You look at every team that has advanced to the postseason, and let’s face it, that’s how we’re going to be measured, not if we get into the postseason, but how deep do we progress into the postseason. And it typically starts and ends with your starting rotation. So that is a priority. Not only with the returning guys, which I think is a very strong, core group, when you consider Jon, when you consider Felix, Clay, the return of John Lackey, that is going to be an important part of that. So there are things across the field .. There was a question before about across the field, what did you see some things differently? Yeah, from a pitching standpoint there were some very obvious things with Jon that he and I have already talked about that you saw with his delivery that he kind of drifted into that might have affected his overall consistency. You can’t underemphasize the importance of a starting rotation.”

On the separation between being a manager and pitching coach. “There’s demands during the day that are going to keep me from going down to the bullpen and working with a pitcher on his side day. Certainly my conversations with the pitching coach, whoever that becomes here, will happen naturally because of my background. That’s what happened in Toronto.  It will be no different than a former catcher managing a club and talking to a hitting instructor or positional coach there. I see that dynamic being very comparable. The one thing I will be very clear with the pitchers here prior is that it becomes an open line of communication, and not to bypass that passing coach. There can be no confusion in message. The player is ultimately the one who loses out in that and then we ultimately lose out, because there’s the potential for confusion.

The Red Sox have their hands full. “There’s a list of to-dos, no question. But with the roster that’s there now, there’s a core group there that you can build around. Having a comfort level with Ben and Mike and Brian and BOH and everyone in baseball ops, there’s no communication barriers. There’s no reluctance to give a gut feel or an educated opinion on a given player, on a given combination of things that might currently or what we’re trying to achieve from a roster standpoint. But the game also fosters change, whether it’s through free agency or opportunity. It would be the same if I were able to assemble a coaching staff that would get opportunities elsewhere to become managers. We would champion that. That means we’re getting quality people and putting our players in the best environment to have success as well.

Getting Daniel Bard back on track. “We’ve exchanged a couple of text messages and voice mails. Before getting a chance to talk with him in depth, I couldn’t begin to say what the steps to adjustments might be. But I think we all recognize, it wasn’t too long ago that this might’ve been the best eighth inning reliever in baseball. He’s not injured. That gives you every reason to believe that he might regain that performance ability.”

 

Game 7 Grapefruit League: Red Sox 6, Orioles 1

SARASOTA, Fla. –- Never mind that little loss of control in the first inning. Jon Lester pretty much looks ready for Opening Day. Aaron Cook looks like he could be a contributor if the stays healthy.

What went right: Lester broke out several lethal cutters during four strong innings of work. He gave up one run. Cook was held behind the other starters during the early portion of camp due to his recent history of health troubles, but he looks like he could catch on quickly, throwing several impressive sinkers.

What went wrong: Hard to find many flaws with this one. All in all, it was a good Sunday for the Red Sox.

What they said: “Speaking of the cutter, the last time I caught him, it was this little baby cutter which was seven years ago now. It’s a different pitch now.” – Kelly Shoppach, reunited with Lester seven years later.

What’s next: New closer Andrew Bailey will make his Grapefruit League debut out of the bullpen Monday in a 1:35 p.m. ET airing live on MLB.TV against the Marlins. Veteran right-hander Josh Beckett will make his third start, and setup man Mark Melancon is also scheduled to pitch. Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis will be back in the lineup after getting Sunday off.

Injury update: Shortstop Jose Iglesias is nursing a minor right groin injury, and manager Bobby Valentine might hold him out of the lineup until Thursday … Left fielder Carl Crawford (left wrist) continues to have productive work days and could resume swinging soon … Lefty Andrew Miller, who was shut down briefly with left elbow stiffness, is expected to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

Pitching plans for early exhibition games

Manager Bobby Valentine had his pitching plans for the first few exhibition games posted on the clubhouse wall this morning. Here are the lists

Thursday’s B game vs. the Twins.

Aceves
Bard
Mortensen
Carlson
Pena
Wilson
Inman
Thomas

Saturday vs. Northeastern

Lester
Germano
Bowden
Albers

Saturday vs. Boston College

Doubront
Tazawa
Mathis
Spoone

Sunday vs. Minnesota

Beckett
Miller
Melancon
Thomas
Pena
Atchison

Monday, March 5 at Minnesota

Buchholz
Padilla
Inman
Carlson
Duckworth

March 6 vs. Baltimore

Bard
Aceves
Wilson
Mortensen
Bowden

March 7 “B” Game vs. Minnesota

Lester
Spoone
Britton
Albers
Thomas
Atchison
Mathis

March 7 at Toronto

Silva
Tazawa
Melancon
Pena
Germano

Sunday notes from Fort Myers

Jon Lester’s pickoff move will be a point of emphasis:

“His actual technique was what was being worked on today, and that would be his ability to disguise to the runner when he’s coming to first and when he’s going home,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “Today was mainly his bottom half, his leg movement, and kind of closing the gap a little when he throws to first. He was pretty good at it. He also has a thing about throwing to first, his confidence in firing it over there. Repetitions hopefully will cure some of those ills and get rid of some of those demons.”

Matt Albers started strong, but finished horrendously last year. The hope is that he can regain his form.

“Matt’s a good thrower. He’s throwing that two-seamer, which is something he’s working on here in the spring. Punto seemed to be on it pretty good hitting it to left field as a left-hand swinger. Matt’s had a wonderful spring so far. His work and his attitude. Like one of the guys said, ‘Don’t let his body fool you,’ because he’s a pretty good pitcher.”

Bobby Valentine is one of a plethora of managers who was able to write Hall of Famer Rickey Hendeson into his lineup card, having managed him in New York in 1999 and 2000.

Did Valentine ever try to hit Henderson anywhere but first?

“No. Matter of fact, the first conversation I ever had with Rickey, I said I wouldn’t ask him to hit anywhere else. He said, ‘Good, ’cause Rickey’s a good leadoff hitter.’ That was the same day Rickey told me, ‘Rickey don’t do signs.’ No signs? ‘Rickey don’t do signs.”‘

Accountable Lester admits to drinking during games

Good for Jon Lester to be the first Red Sox pitcher to come out and publicly discuss allegations that he and other Red Sox starting pitchers were drinking beer during games they weren’t pitching in. And good for The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham for getting the story.

With the soap opera that has been in full motion since the Sox had their season collapse on them in Baltimore on Sept. 28, someone had to come out and say something.

Here are some of the things Lester said:

“There’s a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn’t the case,” Lester told Boston Globe reporter Peter Abraham. “Was it a bad habit? Yes. I should have been on the bench more than I was. But we just played bad baseball as a team in September. We stunk. To be honest, we were doing the same things all season when we had the best record in baseball.”

Lester wanted to make it clear that he and other pitchers weren’t getting drunk during games.

“It was a ninth-inning rally beer,” Lester said. “We probably ordered chicken from Popeye’s like once a month. That happened. But that’s not the reason we lost. Most of the times, it was one beer, a beer. It was like having a Coke in terms of how it affected you. I know how it looks to people and it probably looks bad. But we weren’t up there just drinking and eating and nobody played video games. We watched the game.”

Terry Francona, who had a mutual parting of ways with the Red Sox after eight years as manager, said shortly after the season that he didn’t feel his players were pulling for each other as much in 2011 as in years past.

Francona also spoke of not being able to “reach players” this season that he had reached in the past.

“I love Tito and he did a great job for us when he was here. On a personal level I was more than grateful for what he did for me and my family,” Lester said.

That said, Lester essentially indicated his former manager was right when he said the Red Sox need a new voice of leadership.

“But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course,” Lester said. “People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never had that iron-fist mentality. If you screwed up, he called you on it. That was how it worked.

“I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure.”

Lester felt that one of the starting pitchers needed to say something in light of all the recent reports.

“Consider us a unit when it comes to these accusations,” Lester said. “We either fall together or rise above it all together whether they like it or not. Things got magnified because we lost and sources started telling people what happened, which has me upset because if you’re going to say something, be a man to put your name to it. But we’re not bad people and we’re not a bad group of guys.

“Are there things I regret? Sure there are. But nothing happened that had me unprepared to pitch. I don’t blame people for wanting answers because we had a hell of a team and we lost. You can’t have a team that gets paid like we get paid and loses and not expect people to want answers.”

Lester, who won 15 games in 2011, disputes the notion that Red Sox pitchers let themselves get out of shape, though he didn’t deny there might have been some weight gains over the course of the season.

“It’s probably because of how we eat,” Lester said. “We have some crazy hours with the travel and you get in at 4 a.m. and you get room service or something quick. But unless your body fat is going up 10 percent or something like that, you don’t have a problem.

“I’ve heard what people are saying in Boston. I can tell you that guys were in the weight room. Guys were doing their shoulder [exercises] and guys were prepared to pitch. If we win a few more games in September and make the playoffs, none of this comes out. But we didn’t and that’s on us as a team and on me personally. I take a lot of the blame for this, a lot.

“In September, a lot of people had their weight jump up and I can see where the owner would look at that and say we’re out of shape. But that’s not the case Every time I was in the weight room, there were guys busting their [butt].”

Though Lester pitched fairly well while taking a no-decision on three days rest in the fateful regular-season finale at Camden Yards, he feels he let the team down by going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in September. In a three-start stretch between Sept. 11-24, Lester was 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA.

“It bothers me because I’m supposed to be a stopper,” Lester said. “I picked a terrible time to stink. That’s on me.”

Lester also said the Red Sox need some more veteran leaders in the clubhouse.

Alex Cora, Eric Hinske and Sean Casey are three players Lester cited for filling that role in the past.

“We need that good veteran presence,” Lester said. “If you have somebody like that, it makes everybody better. Everybody is accountable and we have plenty of people to look up to. That’s not the problem. But we have a lot of guys who are kind of middle-aged in terms of their careers. Sometimes you need veteran guys who know their roles and can reach out to everybody.”

Fenway Friday

Some nuggets of note from Fenway, where the Red Sox are set to open a four-game series against the Twins.

Alfredo Aceves is back in the bullpen, replacing Scott Atchison, who was here for just a day. Aceves did a good job the first time he was up, and was sent back not because of performance, but because of a roster crunch. He should be particularly beneficial over the next few days, because Tim Wakefield is starting tonight, and will need some rest before he is available in the bullpen again.

Jon Lester will get some extra time before his next start. Beckett will vault ahead of him in the rotation and pitch Monday night. Lester will open the two-game series at Toronto on Tuesday.

This would set up Buchholz, Dice-K and Beckett to pitch the series in New York, though they’d have the flexibility to pitch Beckett Saturday and Lester on regular rest for the Yankees’ finale if they want to skip Matsuzaka in that series.

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