Sox, Lester table extension talks for now

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Saturday the team and starting pitcher Jon Lester will table contract extension talks for the time being.

"I think we're going to hit the pause button," Cherington said. "We've had a lot of dialogues. We fully understand their position, and they fully understand our position that our desire remains to keep him here past 2014. It allows him to get ready for Monday and to get the team ready for Monday, we'll hit the pause button. Hopefully we can pick up the conversation again at some point."

Lester, slated to start on Opening Day, said he had no problem with stalling contract extension talks in order to focus on the regular season.

"We agreed to take a step back right now and put it on hold until a later time," said Lester, who becomes a free agent at the end of this year, the last of a six-year, $42.75 million contract. "It might have been a little bit of a rush to get it done before the season."

Lester is slated to face Chris Tillman of the Baltimore Orioles at 3:05 p.m. Monday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the regular-season opener.

This will be the fourth Opening Day start for Lester, who is in the last year of a six-year, $42.75 million deal. He joined the Red Sox as a second-round draft pick in 2002.

"He's a very good starting pitcher," Cherington said. "He has shown durability. He has put himself in a good position, and we respect that. Our desire remains to keep him here, and we'll continue to have an open mind. We couldn't get to anything during this spring training."