<
>

Pedroia, mates braced for losing Lester

BOSTON -- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia sat in the dugout at Fenway Park Tuesday afternoon and couldn’t fathom what this team would be like without Jon Lester.

After Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Pedroia seemed even more shaken up when he learned Lester was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday.

Red Sox manager John Farrell announced the move, saying due to the uncertainty surrounding a potential trade, the club thought it was in “everyone’s best interest that [Lester] does not make that start.”

Instead, Brandon Workman will be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to start in Lester’s spot.

Lester’s uniform, numerous pairs of spikes and family photographs were still in his locker after Tuesday’s game, but he had quickly left the ballpark.

The likelihood that Lester will be traded before Thursday’s deadline increased Tuesday because the demand for his services has risen steeply, a league source said earlier in the day.

Postgame, the idea that Lester may indeed have pitched his last game for the Red Sox seemed to be settling in.

Pedroia and Lester grew up and developed in the Red Sox’s minor league system and became close friends. They’re both cornerstones of the success of the team that won World Series titles in 2007 and 2013.

“It’s tough. We’re not teammates, we’re family,” Pedroia said. “It’s not something you like going through. It makes you feel worse because you don’t want to be in this position. I know a lot of guys, you play up to your capability and your team should be adding and not subtracting. Hopefully he’s here.”

Red Sox players understand this is a business, but Lester being dealt would have a unique effect in the clubhouse, unlike any other player in recent history who has been traded away.

“The more you play you understand the business side of the game, but it’s still hard,” Pedroia said. “You just don’t work together, you’re with each other more than you are with your family, so it’s a tough time.”

Many of the Red Sox players privately are shaking their heads as to why the club would trade one of the best, most reliable and consistent pitchers in the majors. He routinely reaches the 200-inning plateau each season, and with the exception of time missed during his battle with cancer in 2006 and the early part of the 2007 season, Lester has been on the disabled list only once.

He’s become a big-game pitcher and the Red Sox figure to miss that for years to come.

“If we’ve got a big game to play, we want him pitching in it,” Pedroia said. “I’ve seen him every start and it’ll be tough to see him in another uniform.

“I hope in a couple of days that he’s here because he means a lot to me and everyone else and what he’s done here. I’m hoping we open the door and he’s in there.”

On Monday, Lester arrived at the ballpark later than usual and when he walked into the clubhouse, fellow pitchers Clay Buchholz and John Lackey, along with catcher David Ross and outfielder Jonny Gomes, were huddled around Lester’s locker in what appeared to be a serious conversation.

On Tuesday, Lester and Farrell stood in the outfield during batting practice and spoke at length.

Buchholz already has lost a few pitching mentors during his career in Boston, including Josh Beckett, and if Lester is no longer a member of the Red Sox, it will leave another void for Buchholz.

“Obviously, if it does happen it’s a blow,” Buchholz said. “He’s been our horse for as long as I’ve been here, so I’m not really quite sure who would be able to fill his shoes in that aspect of it, but that’s the business and sometimes you’ve got to take what you get. I think it’ll all work out in the end, but it’s one of those things that’s been talked about a lot the last couple of weeks and it’s getting down to the breaking point of it and I’m sure we’ll hear about it tomorrow.”

The Red Sox players also understand if the team weren’t in the basement of the AL East, the thought of Lester being traded wouldn’t even be entertained.

“I think it would be a lot different if the season wasn’t going the way it is right now,” Buchholz said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to believe it, but anything can happen in this game, especially with a guy like Jon Lester, who can help make any staff a lot better than what they already are, regardless of who’s on the pitching staff. He’s one of those guys that can make things happen just because of how talented he is and how much he’s accomplished and what he’s done in the postseason.”

“He’s like a brother to me,” Red Sox patriarch David Ortiz said of Lester. “Pedey’s right, we’ve been together for a long period of time and it’s difficult just for the fact that all these trading rumors are going around and he’s been scratched tomorrow. It’s complicated but we’ll see.”

On Monday, Ortiz still had hope that Lester and the Red Sox would come to some sort of agreement that would keep him in Boston for the remainder of this season and beyond. After Tuesday’s loss, Ortiz said he would be disappointed if Lester is traded.

“Of course, you want to keep Lester around,” Ortiz said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game -- no question about it. It would be frustrating if you see him go somewhere else because of the situation we’re facing right now [in the standings], but you don’t want to get ahead of what’s going on and better wait to see what happens.”

Ortiz, who has been through numerous contract negotiations with the Red Sox during his career, said the inability of the Red Sox and Lester to agree on a contract extension is a surprise.

“It is surprising,” Ortiz said. “But in this game you never know what’s going to happen, you never know what’s next.

“This is really uncomfortable until the deadline goes by. It’s a situation where everybody’s not too comfortable. There’s a couple of days still, so we’ll see.”