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Lester strikes out six in latest Pawtucket start

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Red Sox left-hander and cancer survivor
Jon Lester pitched five shutout innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on
Friday night in what is expected to be his second-to-last rehab
outing before he returns to the Boston rotation.

Lester allowed three hits and no walks against Buffalo,
finishing up with his sixth strikeout of the game on a 94 mph
fastball to fan Bisons designated hitter Ryan Mulhern. Pitching in
a hovering fog, Lester threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes, and picked
off a runner to end the fourth.

Lester is scheduled to make one more start for Pawtucket before
the Red Sox decide whether to promote him. Red Sox manager Terry
Francona said before Boston's game against the New York Yankees
that Lester passed his checkup on Thursday.

"He had a real good day yesterday, a very good day," Francona
said. "He got a clean bill of health."

Lester made his major league debut last June 10 and went 7-2
with a 4.76 ERA before ending his season when he was diagnosed with
cancer of the lymph system. Chemotherapy ended in December, and
doctors pronounced him cancer-free.

Lester made three appearances with Single-A Greenville, with a
2.08 ERA and 0-0 record. The 23-year-old was scheduled to start for
Pawtucket at Rochester on Wednesday, but the game was postponed
because of rain.

Friday's outing was headed the same way, with rain falling on
McCoy Stadium until after 6 p.m. The first pitch was pushed back
for a half-hour, and drying sand was spread through right field to
soak up some of the puddles that had formed in the grass.

Very few fans were in the stands when Lester took the mound and
retired the first five batters he faced and eight of the first
nine.