BRADENTON, Fla. - Jon Lester said he felt the best he has mechanically in a long time during his start against the Pirates Wednesday.
The scoreboard did not reflect that, however. Lester was tagged for four runs on eight hits and lasted only three innings. He walked two, struck out one, and threw 80 pitches.
“To waste it is bad,’’ said the Red Sox lefthander. “But I guess that’s the positive from today. I was able to really repeat some things we’ve been working on.’’
Lester can afford to dismiss one game in March. He has been named the Opening Day starter, and his work against the Pirates quickly will be forgotten.
But he still bothered at the idea of getting knocked around.
“I’m a competitor and I want to win,’’ Lester said. “I don’t care if it’s on a back field in Minnesota or if it’s at Fenway. I always want to do well and win and get the results that I feel I’ve put the work in for. This is not something I take lightly, even through it’s in spring training.
“I don’t think there’s anything we need to address. I felt really sound and in good position when I threw the ball. Just that little bit under it with my fastball. Instead of being at the knees I was at the thigh.’’
Lester was pleased with his changeup and curveball.
Rally, then loss
Trailing, 4-1, the Red Sox got a two-run home run from Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fourth inning, an RBI double from Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth, and a home run from minor leaguer Mauro Gomez in the seventh. Saltalamacchia was 1 for 13 before going 2 for 3 with a double and the home run. The Boston lead did not last long as Andrew Bailey gave up a two-run homer to Nate McLouth in the bottom of the seventh, and the Sox wound up losing, 6-5.
Francona in town
The Yankees play their annual game at Fort Myers on Thursday. The Red Sox will pitch Aaron Cook against David Phelps at JetBlue Park. Of perhaps greater interest will be the return of former manager Terry Francona, who will work the game for ESPN. “I think calling the game’s the easy part, just because my history with the organization is so long,’’ said Francona. “I haven’t had to do a ton of homework, because I know a lot about them. As far as being awkward, doing the game is not awkward at all. I didn’t particularly like the way my tenure ended. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be really fun to see a lot of people tomorrow. At the same time, I’ve got a job to do and I don’t want it to be a sideshow. So I’ll certainly be cognizant of the fact that there’s a game to play. That’s the reason we’re there and try to keep it that way as much as possible.’’
A nod to Parnell
Red Sox Hall of Famer Mel Parnell, who died at the age of 89 Tuesday, was the winningest lefthander in team history, going 123-75 from 1947-56. He enjoyed watching the Red Sox and particularly Lester, who has 76 wins. “I was saddened to hear about Mr. Parnell’s passing, and my sympathies are with his family,’’ Lester said. “His pitching legacy is one that I have looked to build from in my own career, and it’s humbling to know that one of the greatest lefthanded pitchers in Red Sox history respected me as a player.’’
Morales gets in
Franklin Morales had his first action of the spring, pitching the eighth inning. The lefty struck out the first batter he faced, walked the next, then induced a double play. Morales was first slowed by weakness in his shoulder, then further delayed when his physical showed the possibility of a heart condition. He traveled to Boston and was cleared by doctors there. Valentine said there is enough time remaining for Morales to get enough work and make the Opening Day roster. “I felt good,’’ Morales said. “I threw all my pitches. What I need to do is see hitters.’’
Vicente Padilla and Andrew Miller, who have hamstring pulls, had treatment back in Fort Myers. Padilla showed improvement but Miller was limping. The oft-injured Miller is out of the competition for a rotation spot. Padilla is expected to miss his next turn . . . Carl Crawford did not take any swings but did base-running drills and is scheduled to take swings at balls tossed to him Thursday. “He’s progressing,’’ Valentine said . . . Josh Beckett will start a minor league game this afternoon rather than face the Yankees . . . Rich Hill threw live batting practice for the third time. His recovery from Tommy John surgery continues to be rapid . . . Valentine said more cuts were coming once the team gets through its road games this week.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.