Left-hander Jon Lester, a native of Puyallup and former high school star in the Narrows League, will get his first opening day start when the Boston Red Sox play at Texas on April 1.
Manager Terry Francona made the announcement Wednesday before Lester pitched against the Atlanta Braves in his third Grapefruit League start. He gave up eight hits and three runs in 42/3 innings.
“It’s a big honor,” Lester said of the April 1 assignment. “But it’s still a work in progress down here.
“One more start, and I’ll be ready to go.”
While at Bellarmine Prep from 1999-2002, Lester pitched against Olympia and Capital in the Narrows League.
The three-time Narrows League MVP was named the Gatorade player of the year for Washington in 2002, a few weeks before being drafted in the second round by the Red Sox.
Lester has a 61-25 career record and 3.55 ERA. He was 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 225 strikeouts in 208 innings last year.
Francona said the 27-year-old Lester has earned the right to start on opening day.
“I think he deserves it,” Francona said. “I think he kind of has that station in the game now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1.”
Right-hander Josh Beckett started the past two openers for the Red Sox.
‘DAD STUFF’ PROVES TO BE DANGEROUS
Scott Downs was “just doing dad stuff” with his two children Sunday when he took himself out of the opening day picture for the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen.
The veteran left-hander stubbed a toe while he said he was “playing around with the kids,” and he wound up with a fractured bone in the big toe of his left foot. The injury likely will put Downs on the disabled list to start the season and possibly for weeks into it.
“Very, very frustrating,” Downs said. “Just one of those things — everybody has these freak accidents occasionally. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be any worse.”
Downs will have the injury re-evaluated in two weeks. The Angels open the season in two weeks at Kansas City, making it likely they will have to do without a key piece of their bullpen for some time into the regular season.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing. But occasionally, things happen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Opening day is impacted, but we’re optimistic he’ll get back out there shortly after that.”
SALAZAR LOSES EYE
Doctors removed the left eye of Atlanta Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar, who was struck in the face by an errant line drive on March 9.
The 54-year-old former major leaguer was watching a spring training game between the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals minor league teams when Brian McCann fouled a ball near his team’s dugout where Salazar was standing.
Salazar, father-in-law of Mariners outfielder Frankin Gutierrez, is expected to return to the team in four to six weeks.
AROUND THE HORN
Chris Carpenter was given a vote of confidence in his return to the mound from a hamstring injury: He was named the Cardinals’ opening-day starter. “I feel fine right now, and I’ll be ready for opening day,” he said. Pitcher Adam Wainwright reported to the Cardinals’ spring training for elbow rehab less than three weeks after undergoing season-ending reconstructive surgery. Federal prosecutors released transcripts and recordings of voicemail messages Barry Bonds left for his former mistress, Kimberly Bell, during their nine-year relationship. Most of the messages show Bonds angrily inquiring after Bell’s whereabouts. Marty Marion, the brilliant shortstop and 1944 National League MVP with the Cardinals and a former manager of the Cardinals and St. Louis Browns, died Tuesday at age 93.