Jon Lester pitching against the Baltimore Orioles, June 29, 2009
|Boston Red Sox – No. 31|
January 7, 1984 |
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|June 10, 2006 for the Boston Red Sox|
(through 2013 season)
|Earned run average||3.76|
|Career highlights and awards|
Jonathan Tyler "Jon" Lester (born January 7, 1984) is an American professional baseball pitcher with the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball (MLB). 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.
High school career
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.
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 Double-A 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 Double-A All-Star squad.
Lester was one of the Red Sox' top-rated prospects while in the minors, and other major league teams 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.
With a rash of injuries and general ineffectiveness of several Red Sox starters, the team recalled Lester on June 10 to make his major league debut against the Texas Rangers. He put up a 4.76 ERA in 81.1 innings pitched in his rookie year. Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a treatable cancer, in the middle of the season (see Lymphoma diagnosis and comeback for more details). He finished the season with a 7–2 record.
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 three hits and three walks while collecting three strikeouts. Lester became 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 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, keeping Lester in Boston.
In 2008, Lester went 16–6 with a 3.21 ERA. Along with his no-hitter, he pitched a five-hit shutout 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 had the second highest winning percentage of all starting pitchers over the last three years (27–8, .771), and 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.
On March 8, Lester agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract extension with a $14 million team option in 2014.
On June 6, Lester made his bid for a second no-hitter against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers at Fenway. He pitched 61⁄3 perfect innings, striking out 10 batters, on 61 pitches through the first six innings. Michael Young hit a one-out double to left center field in the seventh inning to break up the no-hitter, but Lester pitched a complete game, striking out a total of 11 batters, giving him 23 Ks in two starts (he had a career-best 12 Ks his previous start).
On August 14, Lester struck out ten batters for the sixth time in the 2009 season, the most times ever by a Red Sox lefty.
In 2010 Lester won his final start in April, then 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, winning the award for the third time.
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 sixth inning for the AL allowing no baserunners.
On July 25 he took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Seattle Mariners but lost it in that inning due to an error made by Eric Patterson. A home run by Michael Saunders broke up the no hit bid. The Red Sox eventually lost the game. The loss was the second of four losses in a row Lester took after the All-Star break; this was the first time he lost consecutive decisions 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.
In 2011, Lester was the opening day starter for the Red Sox, on the road against Texas. He had a solid season, leading Boston's rotation in wins for the second year in a row and strikeouts for the third year in a row. He was named to the American League All-Star team, replacing Felix Hernandez, but did not pitch due to a lat injury.
Lester struggled along with the rest of the team, losing his last three decisions, including giving up eight runs in a start against the New York Yankees. He pitched the season finale against the Baltimore Orioles, pitching six innings and giving up just two runs. The bullpen was unable to hold onto the lead, and the Red Sox were eliminated.
Lester finished the season 15–9 with a 3.41 ERA. He finished in the top 20 in strikeouts (11th), wins (10th) and ERA (17th).
In the end of the 2011 season, Lester and two more starting pitchers were in a center of a controversy that told that the three (and sometimes more) drank alcohol during games. Many people hypothesized that this was part of the reason why the Red Sox went 7–20 in September and were eliminated on the last day of the season. Lester was the first to tell what really happened, and stressed that they would only drink when they weren't pitching for that day. Lester was the first of the three starting pitchers to admit to his drinking.
In 2012, Lester was again the opening day starter for the Red Sox. Lester's season was very disappointing, posting a 9-14 record, a sub-par 4.82 ERA, and a .273 batting average against.
On May 10, 2013, Lester threw a complete game one-hitter, with 0 walks, against the Toronto Blue Jays, facing only 28 batters. Cy Young still remains as the last pitcher to throw a Perfect Game with the Red Sox, back in 1904.
On October 3, 2013, Lester was named as the starting pitcher for the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Red Sox first return to the postseason since 2009. The following day, Game 1 of the ALDS took place at Fenway Park with Lester pitching 7 2/3 innings with 3 walks and striking out seven and the Red Sox winning 12-2 (and winning the series 3-1). Lester also tied Josh Beckett's Red Sox Postseason record of 4K's of the first four batters to begin the game.
Lester started Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on October 12, 2013. He pitched 6.1 innings with 4 strikeouts and only giving up 1 run, but was outmatched by a 1 hit game put together by the Tiger pitching staff led by starter Anibal Sanchez. At Comerica Park on October 17, 2013, Lester again faced Sanchez in Game 5. The Red Sox won 4-3 with Lester pitching 5 innings and showing spectacular defensive skills in the 5th inning throwing out former teammate Jose Iglesias with a glove flip to first base on a bunt attempt.
After the Red Sox victory in the ALCS, Lester was selected to start Game 1 of the 2013 World Series between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Lester pitched to a 8 to 1 victory over St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright. Lester then went on to a Game 5 win again over Wainwright giving the Red Sox a series lead of 3-2.
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 teammate 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 baseman Dustin Pedroia, Lester's was preserved by a diving catch by rookie center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to end the fourth inning.
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 Triple-A 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, the place where Lester himself was treated, 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.
Lester and his wife Farrah established NVRQT, short for "Never Quit" in 2011 to support kids in their battle against cancer and inspire researchers working endlessly towards a cure. Lester has written guest columns about his cause on Boston.com and CNN.com.
- Go 2 Guy: Lester went from MLB to cancer ward and back again[dead link]
- Edes, Gordon (November 22, 2005). "This Marlin a pretty big fish for Sox to land". Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Chuck, Bill. 100 random things about the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, The Boston Globe. Published April 2, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
- Chuck, Bill (April 2, 2009). "100 random things about the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees". Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "Jon Lester 2008 Pitching Gamelogs - Baseball-Reference.com". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Lester lands five-year extension with Red Sox[dead link]
- Brown, Ian (October 17, 2011). "Lester: We did drink in clubhouse during games". Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Ian Browne (2008-05-19). "Lester hurls 18th Red Sox no-no". Retrieved May 19, 2008.
- Sean McAdam (May 20, 2008). "Lester traveled hard road to no-hitter".
- Maureen Mullen (May 20, 2008). "No-hitter not possible without Ellsbury".
- "Birth of son inspires Jon Lester", MLBPlayers.com, June 11, 2012.
- "Jon and Farrah Lester". fabwags.com. 2013-09-10.
- "Jon Lester Off The Marriage Market". wbztv.com. 2008-07-11.[dead link]
- [dead link]
- ESPN (December 5, 2006). "Report: Lester's latest CT scan clean". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 5, 2006.
- "Sox: Lester has treatable form of lymphoma.". Boston Herald. Associated Press. 2006-09-01. Retrieved September 1, 2006.
- "Red Sox option LHP Jon Lester to Pawtucket". MLB.com. June 11, 2007.
- Wilbur, Eric (November 28, 2007). "Lester gets the honor". The Boston Globe.
- [dead link]
- Real Insight. Real Fans. Real Conversations. Sporting News. Retrieved on 2011-11-15.
- Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to Release Charity Wines this Spring. Charityhop.com (2011-05-05). Retrieved on 2011-11-15.
- "Red Sox’ Lester Launches ‘NVRQT’ To Fight Children’s Cancer". CBSBoston. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- "What is NVRQT?". NVRQT.org. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Lester, Jon. "Guest column: Sox' Lester will NVRQT in fight against pediatric cancer". Boston.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Lester, Jon. "MLB pitcher battles cancer, never quits". CNN. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jon Lester.|
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Official Site
- SoxProspects.com Bio
- Interview With Lester