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Lester prepares for Opening Day in camp start

Lester prepares for Opening Day in camp start

Lester prepares for Opening Day in camp start
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The atmosphere Jon Lester pitched in on Sunday morning was as different as possible from the one that will be ever-present when he takes the ball on Friday afternoon in Texas in the first Opening Day start of his career.

For this final Spring Training tuneup, Lester pitched an "in-camp" game against Red Sox Minor Leaguers, a group that included Ryan Kalish and Lars Anderson.

Did Lester get what he needed out of it?

"Yeah, I think for the most part," Lester said. "Up and down five times, got to the pitch count that [pitching coach] Curt [Young] wanted me to get to. I pitched out of some jams, had some errors and kind of overcome that. I think it was pretty good as far as preparing for a season. Kind of everything that could happen in a game happened. You just try to control your emotions and focus on the next pitch."

Over five innings, Lester gave up nine hits and five runs, four of which were earned. He walked none and struck out five. Of his 77 pitches, 50 were for strikes.

If Lester has a result like that on Friday against the defending American League champion Rangers, he won't be pleased. But it's hard to correlate Sunday to a real game, particularly one as important as Opening Day.

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"As far as that, there was some adrenaline," said Lester. "But you can never simulate what happens in a game. No matter how hard you try, you just can't do it."

But as with every part of Lester's preparation, it was an event he took seriously, trying to get into as much of a game mindset as possible.

"There's always that nervous adrenaline," Lester said. "I think there's two different types of adrenaline: the adrenaline of the crowd and the atmosphere of what's going on, and then you have those butterflies in your stomach."

For Sunday's outing, the butterflies were what gave Lester the adrenaline he needed.

"The combination of the two is what the season is. But yeah, it doesn't matter if I'm pitching down there [at the Minor League complex] or in Yankee Stadium or this next Friday," Lester said. "You get those nerves and you get those butterflies and you want to do well. It's kind of that fear of the unknown. As far as that, there was some adrenaline. But you can never simulate what happens in a game. No matter how hard you try, you just can't do it."

There was no shortage of baserunners for Lester, which gave him a built-in excuse to bear down.

"He was good," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We got through all of his pitches, most importantly. Right away, he got put in a situation where he had to work, so that was good. He got to do some [situational pitching]."

In five days, Lester will be presented with another situation -- experiencing the honor of getting to pitch the first game of his team's season.

"I'll just go out there and just try to do what I know how to do," Lester said. "That's what I can control. The rest of the stuff will take care of itself. That's stuff for [the media] to do. I don't worry about that stuff. Just go out and pitch and have fun. If I do that, if I focus on that, then like I've said in years past, everything else will fall into place."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }