Jon Lester struggling, not shaken
Gordon Edes [ARCHIVE]
ESPNBoston.com
July 19, 2012
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BOSTON -- They are still at least two weeks away from having the starting lineup Bobby Valentine envisioned this season, now that David Ortiz has become the latest Red Sox player to land on the disabled list.

But even with Dustin Pedroia cooling his heels for one more night before he comes back, the possibilities for a Red Sox revival were there for all to see Wednesday -- Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford creating at the top of the lineup, Cody Ross blasting matching three-run home runs, Adrian Gonzalez going deep for the second time in three games, shutdown pitching by Felix Doubront and the Sox bullpen.

How many people watching were thinking to themselves, if only Jon Lester could pitch like seasons past, October would be more than just a fantasy?

Guaranteed there was at least one -- Jon Lester.

In a wide-ranging interview before Wednesday's 10-1 win, the Red Sox left-hander touched upon a number of topics -- his frustration with his performance, the perception that he is unhappy, the possibility of being traded, the makeup of the team's clubhouse, the home run that Kevin Youkilis hit off him Tuesday night, and his conviction that with a potential 13 starts left before the end of the season, there is still time for him to be the stopper the team so desperately needs him to be.

"You think I'm happy right now?" Lester said. "You think I like coming to the park with almost a 5 ERA (4.80) next to my name, with a 5-7 record? I mean, who would be happy?

"You think last night me coming off the field getting booed was fun? C'mon, who would want to do that? It's much cooler for me to walk off the field to a standing ovation after pitching my ass off. I don't want that. Do they have the right to boo? Absolutely. But I don't want that.

"It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for my wife to be sitting in the stands to hear that. I'm embarrassed for her. I'm embarrassed what she has to hear in the stands. It's not fun.

"That's not what I want to do. I don't want to show up at the park and go, '[Expletive], I'm going to give up seven runs in four innings and call it a day, then go home and count my money because that's all that matters."'

Lester stressed, however, that there is a difference in being unhappy with his performance and being unhappy about playing here. There have been a number of reports that Lester might be so unhappy he'd welcome a trade.

"Am I happy in Boston?" Lester said. "Yeah, I've got a house here, my family loves it here, I love taking my kid [son Hudson] here. That's two different things. If I'm sitting right now with David Price numbers and said I was not happy, then yeah, maybe it's about Boston. But who in this clubhouse is happy with losing?"

It would seem highly unlikely that they would do so, but Lester isn't ruling out the possibility that the Red Sox could trade him before the July 31 trading deadline. He even suggested that the front office could be swayed by public debate on the topic.

"The Red Sox believe what's written," he said. "If it's written that I should be traded, more times than not that's what ends up happening. Look at the people who've gotten traded around here. It's not their doing.

"It's not up to me. One thing I know in baseball is you should never be comfortable where you are. It doesn't matter who you are. It's a business. If I got traded tomorrow, no hard feelings, it's a business.

"Would I be sad? Yeah. Like I said, we've got a house here, we made a lot of good friends here, we just started a foundation here. It'd be tough. It'd be tough on my family, but it is what it is. It's like being transferred in a business - -you've got to go where they tell you."

With Youkilis flourishing since his trade to the Chicago White Sox on June 24, Lester gave a multilayered answer when asked if he thought he might profit from a change of scenery.

"That's one of those questions you don't know until it happens or doesn't happen," he said. "I think if you asked Youk that he'd say the same thing. Hey, I love it here, but I don't know if a change of scenery is good. I haven't had a change of scenery. I think when you leave Boston, unless you go to a New York or Chicago, it can't do anything but help you.

"This is a tough place to play, you know? I love playing here because it makes people accountable. It makes you accountable for what you do. There's no excuses here. If you pitch like [expletive], you can't come in and say, 'Aw, the mound's a little wet' because you've got Dave (Mellor, the groundskeeper) down there saying, 'No, it wasn't.' This place makes you accountable. I love that about this place because I'm an accountable person. I always have been. My dad has ingrained that in me: Be accountable.

"I love that part about this place, but I think if you go from here to, I don't know, Texas, it would probably be easier to play. You don't have to worry about other things. You just go out and play."

What makes Boston such a tough place to play, Lester said, is less failure than the burden of expectations that comes with success, something Ortiz has alluded to as well on many occasions. When asked if he thought he could hit 40 home runs this season, Ortiz half-jokingly said he didn't want to because then people would expect him to do so every year, and anything less would be viewed as an off-year.

"You come up here," Lester said, "and you say, 'I'm a part of the Red Sox organization, the Red Sox. It's a tough place to play, but it's all about baseball, so let's go out and play and see what happens.' Then a couple of years later you have expectations. You have people that rely on you to do the same thing every year that you did the year before.

"Then it becomes a little tougher. Then you have to figure out who you are as a person, figure out who you are as a man: Am I this person or that person? I know looking back at this year, I'm not this person. This isn't me as a pitcher. I stink, but I've got to keep working to figure out what's going to change it. I've got to keep working."

Lester is well compensated -- he signed a five-year, $30 million deal after the 2008 season, though at $7.625 million this season and $11.625 million in 2013 ($13 million option in 2014), he represents a relative bargain given where the market for starting pitching has gone. San Francisco's Matt Cain, who is nine months younger than Lester, just signed an eight-year, $139.75 million contract, though he has yet to win as many as 15 games in a season, a number Lester has eclipsed in each of the last four seasons.

So he isn't looking for sympathy: "We play a game, we get paid for it, we get to be on TV, kids want to be us, sign autographs, the whole deal. I can't sit here and complain. It's not fair to them."

But last week during the All-Star break, he used...
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