SARASOTA, Fla. - Jon Lester threw two innings against Northeastern March 3, then what amounted to three innings in a “B’’ game against Minnesota Twins prospects four days later.
Sunday marked his first day of major league competition and the lefthander looked sharp, throwing four scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles in a 6-1 victory for the Red Sox.
Facing a representative lineup. Lester gave up one hit, walked four, and struck out two. Only 37 of his 66 pitches were strikes, but that seemed to have more to do with umpire Chad Fairchild than it did Lester.
“We had a hard time figuring out where the plate was,’’ Lester said. “I was just missing on a lot of pitches, but I felt good and I limited the damage. That’s the main thing.
“I’ll take those if I’m close. There were a couple of times the ball got away from me. But for the most part I was on the side of the plate I wanted to be.’’
Adam Jones had the only hit against Lester, a single in the first inning. Of the 15 batters he faced, only three got the ball out of the infield.
“It was good, a little more realistic,’’ Lester said. “Getting in the crowd atmosphere and to face pretty much their everyday lineup was nice. You can tell with the different at-bats these guys were putting together as compared to the ‘B’ game.’’
Manager Bobby Valentine has not announced his starter for Opening Day in Detroit April 5. But if Lester stays on a five-day schedule from now, that would line him up for that game.
He started Opening Day last season.
Aaron Cook made his spring debut, throwing two scoreless innings and not giving up a hit. He walked two and struck out one.
The 33-year-old righthander is coming off a shoulder injury and was held back as a precaution.
“It was kind of difficult but I knew it was for the best,’’ Cook said. “When you put your career first, you trust the trainers and do what they say and hopefully it will all work out.’’
A sinkerball pitcher, Cook got four outs on the ground and showed good command of his most important pitch.
“His sinker, I thought, he had about eight of those that we need to see - 89, 90, great movement at the plate,’’ Valentine said.
Cook is hopeful of showing enough to make the rotation to start the season. But the Sox view him as being part of their depth in the minors, at least for now.
“I’m not sure there are enough innings between now and whatever that magical day is,’’ Valentine said. “But with those two innings under his belt, that day he’ll be ready to help us seems to be not so far away. It seems it will happen if he keeps throwing like that.’’
Treatment for Iglesias
Shortstop Jose Iglesias stayed behind in Fort Myers, Fla., to get treatment on a minor right groin strain.
Iglesias suffered the injury last Monday but didn’t say anything until Saturday night. He told the trainers that he hoped to play Monday, but Valentine won’t take any chances.
“I’m going to see how it is when he comes in tomorrow,’’ the manager said. “I have the inclination to not play him through the off day [Wednesday] unless he’s perfect.
“He’s a kid who has great desire. Right now I’m not going to let it get any worse. That’s for sure.’’
Lefthander Andrew Miller, who missed his last start with a sore elbow, threw again Sunday and is scheduled for a bullpen session Tuesday. He could get into a game as early as Thursday.
Carl Crawford is making progress with his left wrist and soon will be cleared to start swinging a bat again.
“He’s just about ready.’’ Valentine said. “We don’t want to say what day. It’s a very monitored program he’s going to have.’’
Wilson in command
The Orioles beat the Red Sox, 4-1, in a “B’’ game played on a practice field at 10 a.m.
Righthander Alex Wilson, who will start the season in Pawtucket but could emerge as an option, went two innings, allowing one run on two hits.
“Much more in command,’’ Valentine said. “It looked like he was a little outside of himself last time. This time he was in full control.’’
Chorye Spoone, Chris Carpenter, and Drake Britton each went two innings. Carpenter struck out two without a walk.
Juan Carlos Linares singled and homered.
The folks who put the schedule together didn’t help the Sox much. They had a road day game after a night game and lost an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time. “We had like 14 different alarms set this morning,’’ Lester said. “I didn’t miss waking up on time.’’ . . . Lester pitched to Kelly Shoppach for the first time since 2005. Lester was 21 then and still in the minors. “I was a kid, basically,’’ Lester said. Shoppach said the biggest difference was that Lester now has a devastating cutter, a pitch he had just learned in 2005 . . . The game ended on an unusual double play. With Baltimore’s Steve Tolleson on third base and one out, Cory Aldridge hit a fly ball to right field. Jason Repko caught the ball and fired to the plate. Tolleson beat the throw but never touched the plate. As Tolleson walked away, an alert Ryan Lavarnway tagged him. Fairchild pumped his fist and that was the game. “I work on that,’’ Lavarnway joked . . . Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 3 with two RBIs before leaving in the seventh inning. The Orioles have security walk the players through the crowd to the bus when they leave the game, but Pedroia left on his own. “I fear no one,’’ he said. “They got their money’s worth.’’