Great expectations for Lester

April, 6, 2010
4/06/10
12:22
PM ET
Check out the ESPN prediction board and nine of the WWL’s panel of, ahem, experts predict that Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester will win the American League Cy Young Award. The only pitcher to receive more votes was King Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, with 15, while CC Sabathia of the Yankees received eight.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jeff Griffith/US PresswireAfter a slow start, Jon Lester was 12-3 with a 2.31 ERA after May 31 last season.
(The long list of voters reminds me of the day in the 1985 World Series when Peabody’s John Tudor walked into the Cardinals clubhouse, looked at the gaggle of reporters crowded around his locker, and said, “What do you need to get a media pass, anyway, a driver’s license?’’)

For the record, I voted for Lester this season, and did last year, too. If the award had gone to best AL pitcher after May 31, it would have been a coin flip between Hernandez (14-2, 2.10) and Lester, who went 12-3, had the second-best ERA (2.31) in the AL in that stretch and averaged an AL-best 10.19 K’s per nine innings.

Lester, who makes his 2010 debut tonight against the Yankees at Fenway Park, had six games last season in which he fanned 10 or more batters, a record for a Sox left-hander.

But Lester lost any chance at the award, and a 20-win season, in his first 10 starts, when he went 3-5 with a 6.07 ERA.

“I tried to win too many games in the first inning,’’ Lester said this spring, speaking of a tendency to try to do too much, too soon early in the season.

Pitching coach John Farrell said he and Lester had a number of conversations on the subject this spring, and noted that a power pitcher like Lester doesn’t reach full capacity until later in the season.

Lester really clicked last season with new catcher Victor Martinez, posting a 1.62 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .215 batting average. It will be interesting to see how the battery mates mesh this season.

Lester had his troubles against the Yankees in 2009, going 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in four starts. He held the Yankees’ left-handed hitters to a .208 average, but hitters from the right side were problematic, especially Alex Rodriguez, who in five at-bats against Lester had three hits, including two home runs. Derek Jeter and switch-hitting Mark Teixeira both hit .364.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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