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Jon Lester

Jon Lester

Position(s):
P
Born:
January 7, 1984
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
240 lbs
Major League Debut:
6-10-2006 with BOS
Allstar Selections:
2008 HA

Less than two years after being diagnosed with lymphoma, Lester started and won the final game of the 2007 World Series, and in May 2008, pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals.

Career

High school

Lester attended Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Washington, where he was a three-time MVP and three-time All-Area selection. In addition, he was named Gatorade State Player of the Year for Washington in 2000.

Professional

The Red Sox drafted Lester in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2002 draft and gave him the highest signing bonus of any second-rounder that year, $1 million.

Lester quickly moved through the Red Sox organization, posting an 11–6 record, a league-leading 2.61 ERA and a league-best 163 strikeouts for the AA Portland Sea Dogs in 2005. He was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year and was selected as the left-handed pitcher on the Eastern League's year-end All-Star team and on the year-end Topps AA All-Star squad.

Lester has been one of the Red Sox' top-rated prospects since he signed with the club, and other major league teams have made efforts to acquire him. The Texas Rangers had demanded Lester be part of the proposed but ultimately rejected deal before the 2004 season for Alex Rodriguez. The Florida Marlins insisted he be included in the trade for Josh Beckett before the 2006 season, but again, the Sox were able to keep Lester.

2006

With a rash of injuries and general ineffectiveness of several Red Sox starters, the team called up Lester on June 10, 2006 to make his major league debut against the Texas Rangers. He put up a 4.76 ERA in 81.1 innings pitched in 2006, his rookie year. Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a treatable cancer, in the middle of the season (see Battle with lymphoma for more details). He finished the season with a 7–2 record.

2007

Lester before the Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.

Following the successful treatment of his lymphoma, Lester was able to return to the Red Sox midway through the season. In the 2007 World Series, Lester won the series-clinching Game Four for the Red Sox, pitching 5⅔ shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and 3 walks while collecting 3 strikeouts. Lester became just the third pitcher in World Series history to win a series clinching game in his first post-season start.

Rumors swirled again in the 2007 offseason when the Minnesota Twins were looking to trade star ace Johan Santana. The Red Sox proposed multiple offers to the Twins for Santana — including one package that would have traded Lester and other prospects — but the Twins ultimately dealt Santana to the New York Mets.

2008

In 2008, Lester went 16–6 with a 3.21 ERA and emerged as a top lefty pitcher in the AL. Along with his no-hitter, he also pitched a complete game five-hit shut out in his first start at Yankee Stadium. He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in July and September. Lester was also a key figure in the Red Sox' victory over the Angels in the American League Divisional Series, pitching 14 innings without allowing an earned run. Lester has the second highest winning percentage of all starting pitchers over the last three years (27–8, .771), and also led the Red Sox in innings pitched in 2008 with 210.3.

Lester's losses in Games 3 and 7 of the 2008 ALCS were the first losses he had ever had in consecutive starts.

2009

On March 8, 2009, Lester agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract extension with a $14 million team option in 2014.

On June 6, 2009, Lester made his bid for a second no-hitter against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers at Fenway. He pitched 6 1/3 perfect innings, striking out 10 batters, on only 61 pitches through the first six innings. Michael Young hit a one-out double to left center field in the 7th inning to break up the no-hitter, but Lester stayed in to pitch a complete game, striking out a total of 11 batters, giving hm 23 Ks in two starts (he had a career-best 12 Ks his previous start).

On August 14, 2009, Lester struck out 10 batters for the sixth time in the 2009 season, the most times ever by a Red Sox lefty.

2010

In 2010 Lester got off to a slow start. After winning his final start in April, he won five of the six games he started in May. Lester went 5–0 with a 1.84 era and 45 strikeouts and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month. This was the third time he was honored with the award.

On June 16 he got his 50th career win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lester was selected to the American League All-Star team on July 1, this was his first selection. At the time of the break he was 11–3 with a 2.78 era and 124 strikeouts. He pitched the 6th inning for the AL allowing no baserunners.

On July 25 he took a perfect game into the 6th inning against the Seattle Mariners but lost it in the bottom of the fifth due to an error made by Eric Patterson. A home run by Michael Saunders broke up the no hit bid. The Sox eventually lost the game. The loss at the Mariners was the second of four losses in a row Lester took after the all star break; this was the first time he lost two decisions in a row in his career. He would eventually turn it around throwing 6 shutout innings against the Yankees and then 8 shutout innings, despite feeling sick, against the Rangers. Lester finished the season strong but fell just short of 20 wins.

Lester finished the season T-4th in Wins (19) and in 4th place in strikeouts (225) in the Majors (AL and NL combined) in 2010. He finished 25th in the Major Leagues with a 3.25 E.R.A. in an excellent year for pitchers.

The line score inside Fenway Park following Jon Lester's no-hitter.

No-hitter

On May 19, 2008, Lester threw his first career Major League no-hitter, and the 18th in Red Sox history, in a 7–0 win against the Kansas City Royals. Lester threw 130 pitches in the game, allowing only two walks and striking out 9 batters, although he was charged with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the second inning. It was the first no-hitter thrown by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher since Mel Parnell in 1956, the first in MLB since Clay Buchholz's September 2007 no-hitter, and the MLB-record fourth no-hitter caught by Jason Varitek. It was also only the second no-hitter ever pitched against the Royals; Nolan Ryan pitched the other in 1973.

After the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who earlier in the day had attended his son's commencement ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying, "This probably isn't fair to say, but I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter. It's probably selfish on my part to even say something like that. But I think it's obvious how we feel about this kid."

Just as Clay Buchholz's no-hitter was preserved by a diving play by rookie second basemen Dustin Pedroia, Lester's was preserved by a diving catch by rookie center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to end the fourth inning.

Personal life

On January 9, 2009, he married his girlfriend Farrah Stone Johnson, whom he met in 2007 while making rehab starts in single-A Greenville.

Lymphoma diagnosis and comeback

On August 27, 2006, Lester was scratched from his scheduled start against the Oakland Athletics due to a sore back. The following day he was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and was sent back to Boston for testing. At the time, Lester's back problems were thought to be the result of a car crash he was involved in earlier in the month. On August 31 it was reported that Lester had been diagnosed with enlarged lymph nodes and was being tested for a variety of ailments, including forms of cancer. A few days later, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that Lester had a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Lester underwent off-season chemotherapy treatments at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, named after the former MLB pitcher and manager whose life was cut short by cancer at age 45 in 1964. In December 2006, ESPN.com reported that Lester's latest CT Scan showed no signs of the disease, which appeared to be in remission. Lester attended spring training in 2007, and started the season for the class A Greenville Drive. Lester then started for AAA Pawtucket Red Sox in late April 2007. In June, Lester was removed from the disabled list, and sent to Pawtucket for further rehab outings. Lester made his first 2007 start for the Boston Red Sox on July 23 against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, pitching 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and struck out 6, picking up the win. Lester started and won the clinching game of the 2007 World Series, Game 4 against the Colorado Rockies.

To honor Lester's comeback from lymphoma, the Boston Baseball Writers' Association of America voted him the 2007 Tony Conigliaro Award. In an appropriate coincidence, Lester also received the 2008 Hutch Award, given to the Major League player who "best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire" of Hutchinson, after whom Lester's treatment center was named.

In March 2011, Jon Lester partnered with Charity Wines to release his own wine label under the Longball Cellars brand. Proceeds from sales of his CabernAce cabernet support the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to aid the development of targeted immunotherapies. Funds raised from this initiative will help researchers maximize the body’s own ability to strike out and eliminate disease so lymphoma patients can extend their life. He is partnering with teammate Clay Buchholz who is also releasing a Charity Wine, called ChardonClay, to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.

References

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Tagged:
2007 World Series, Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, No-hitter, Starting pitcher, Tony Conigliaro Award

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