A new contract for left-hander Jon Lester, a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, is a top priority for the Boston Red Sox.
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino appeared on WEEI Radio Thursday and said the team and Lester had contract talks during the season, but warned not to get fixated on ongoing negotiations just as fans should not be “fixated on an opening offer.”
Lester reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million in April, but made it clear that did not mean he was bidding adieu to the Red Sox.
“Why does it mean I’m out of Boston?” Lester said.
He is in the final season of a five-year, $30 million contract extension he signed in 2009. By comparison, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Homer Bailey signed a six-year, $105 million deal. Clayton Kershaw ($215 million) and Felix Hernandez ($175 million) set the top of the market in the past two years and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka ($155 million) got big money from the New York Yankees in the offseason.
It is unclear what Lester would accept but in 2013 he said he’d be willing to take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox.
Lester, 30, is 5-6 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 83 strikeouts in 73 innings this season. He is more than an innings-eater, averaging nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings and proven as a playoff winner with a 2.11 ERA in 11 postseason starts.
CAIN TO START
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain is expected to rejoin the rotation Saturday in his return from a hamstring injury.
Cain last started May 21 against the Colorado Rockies when he felt a twinge in his leg on his last pitch of the third inning.
In his first test of the strain, Cain threw a successful bullpen session Wednesday and the team expects him to be fine for Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, barring any setbacks.
The Giants planned for Cain to start on Monday, but he cut short a bullpen session Saturday. The team still believes he can avoid the disabled list since the injury is a Grade 1 strain — the least severe.
Cain returned from a previous stint on the disabled list on May 10. He missed one start because of a cut finger and is 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA in eight starts this season.
ZIMMERMAN WORKS OUT
Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman fielded ground balls at first base and worked out in left field in addition to taking batting practice for the first time in six weeks.
Manager Matt Williams said the workout is a “stepping stone” for Zimmerman’s eventual return. Williams and general manager Mike Rizzo did not discuss a timetable for a potential rehabilitation assignment. He said the team wants to avoid setbacks with the oft-injured Zimmerman.
Washington lost five of six games and until this week, had been without Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Zimmerman. LaRoche returned to the Nationals this week.
Zimmerman encountered tightness and fatigue in his throwing shoulder before injuring his thumb. The Nationals placed Zimmerman on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right thumb April 13 and announced he could be out 4-6 weeks.
The injury occurred the day before while Zimmerman dove back to second base on a play in which he was picked off in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves.
Former Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola will rejoin the New York Mets’ triple-A affiliate next Friday after recovering from open-heart surgery, ESPN reported Thursday.
Viola, 54, underwent the procedure April 2 after a spring training physical detected an irregularity.
Viola had been slated to open the season as pitching coach for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. He spent the previous three years in the organization as a single-A pitching coach.
Viola is due to represent the Mets at next Thursday’s opening day of the draft in Secaucus, N.J., before rejoining Las Vegas.
Viola won the American League Cy Young Award in 1988 when he posted a 24-7 record for the Minnesota Twins.
Viola’s three-year pitching stint with the Mets included a 20-win season in 1990. In eight years with the Twins, Viola logged 112 of his 176 career regular-season victories. The three-time all-star’s career highlights include being named World Series MVP in 1987 .
Viola retired as a pitcher at age 36 after six games with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1996 season.
The Tampa Bay Rays optioned infielder Cole Figueroa to triple-A Durham to make room on the 25-man roster for infielder Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist will be activated prior to the Rays’ three-game weekend series against the Boston Red Sox that begins Friday night at Fenway Park.
Figueroa was hitting .250 with an RBI in seven games for the Rays this season.
Zobrist has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 15 after he dislocated his left thumb with a headfirst slide into second on a stolen-base attempt against the Seattle Mariners.
Zobrist is hitting .260 with three home runs and nine RBIs this season.