MESA, Ariz. -- Strike one.
"Anytime you can put the hitters in a defensive mode, that makes your job a little easier," Lester said after his second spring start for his new team on Wednesday.
The statistics back that up. According to ESPN Stats & Information, batters' OPS last year was .844 after starting 1-0 as opposed to .649 at 0-1. That's a huge difference based on the outcome of the first pitch. Lester dominated the strike zone early on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, just as he did in his first spring start.
"If you're out there pumping strikes, especially that first pitch, guys are already going up there either on the defense or up there hacking," Lester said. "And that's when you change it up on them -- maybe throw something that has a wrinkle in it to steal a strike."
Pretty simple, right? It hasn't always been.
"It's easier said than done," Lester said. "I've battled with it a long time."
As is sometimes the case in the regular season, Lester didn't feel his best in the bullpen before his start, but once he crossed the white chalk, he was all business.
He struck out Jimmy Rollins quickly and got the next three batters before giving up a single to Howie Kendrick. One pitch later, Lester was out of the inning with a double play. In all, he went three innings, giving up three hits but no runs.
"He's a pretty easy guy to catch," Miguel Montero stated. "He just hits spots. He makes your job easier."
Montero caught Lester for the first time in a game on Wednesday. He agreed Lester wasn't very good in the bullpen, but he saw a different pitcher once the game started.
"I knew once he crossed the line he was going to be totally different," Montero said.
Lester shook Montero off a couple of times but nothing to take him out of his rhythm. They'll get it together. It's not hard when the pitcher is pounding the strike zone.
"Tempo was good," Lester said. "Quick outs. Strike one, which is huge. Arm side wasn't too good, especially in the bullpen, but it went well."