For the third consecutive season, Jon Lester will be the Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox. While this announcement was widely speculated over the last couple of weeks, Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal confirmed the decision Wednesday morning.
The Red Sox later tweeted an official announcement:
Lester may have had a tough 2012 campaign, but it appears he’s ready to put last year behind him. In 33 starts last season, Lester went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 205.1 innings of work, striking out 166 batters while walking just 68. Despite the poor results, Lester still led the Red Sox pitching staff in WAR by a large margin, according to FanGraphs.
Lester has been lights-out this spring and without a doubt deserved the Opening Day nod. In five starts and 20 innings, the left-hander has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 16 and walking four. He’s been Boston’s top pitcher in camp by far and, despite Clay Buchholz’s strong spring, was the obvious choice.
“He’s executing pitches with the consistency we’ve seen before, which made him one of the top left-handers in the game,” Boston manager John Farrell told MacPherson.
Buchholz, however, gave Lester a run for his money. In 18.2 innings of work this spring, the right-hander also has allowed just two earned runs, striking out 15 and walking six. Opponents just haven’t been able to get anything done against Boston’s No. 1 and projected No. 2 starting pitchers in spring training, which is a great sign going forward.
The Red Sox rotation looks very good at the moment, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports. If Lester and Buchholz keep mowing down batters like they have been, there’s no reason why Boston couldn’t clinch a postseason berth.
Forgetting about October, let’s focus on what’s going to happen April 1. The Red Sox will be in the Bronx on Monday to face the rival New York Yankees.
MacPherson recently outlined what the pitching matchups would be. To no one’s surprise, he had Lester opposing CC Sabathia, which looks to be the correct prediction.
Who will win on Opening Day?
In Lester’s career against the Bronx Bombers, he’s 9-4 in 22 starts with a 4.10 ERA in 127.1 innings. The Yankees are extremely banged up, and the lineup will be much weaker than the one Lester has pitched against in previous seasons. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson won’t be playing. Neither will Derek Jeter.
Lester still will have to face Ichiro Suzuki, who has hit .306/.324/.472 in 43 at-bats against the lefty in the past, but Boston seems to have a sizeable advantage overall.
Lester has had good success against a lot of the projected Opening Day starters for the Yankees, including Robinson Cano, who has hit just .228/.274/.298 off him.
Giving Lester the ball on Opening Day will be one of the easier decisions Farrell has to make in his first year as manager, but so far he’s 1-for-1.