Lester makes a striking second impression

Lester makes a striking second impression

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Lester has two Grapefruit League starts left before he takes the ball in Baltimore for real on March 31. Judging by Saturday night's effort against the Phillies, the lefty will be more than ready when the bell rings.

Making his second spring start, Lester fired four strong innings, giving up two hits and a run. He walked one and struck out five.

"I felt healthy and got the pitch count up and threw a lot of strikes, which is good," said Lester. "I had some battles deep in the count. It was good. Pitched with some runners on, pitched out of some jams. All in all, it was good."

If not for some location struggles in the first, Lester likely would have pitched into the fifth. But his overall mission was accomplished on a night he threw 68 pitches.

"That first inning kind of killed me," said Lester. "I would've liked to have gone into the fifth and save some pitches there. The biggest thing is just getting up and down, getting your pitch count and staying healthy. Those are our goals during Spring Training, just keep working on fastball command and you take care of that the rest will take care of itself."

Lester's next start will be Thursday against the Yankees.

"I just try to use this time to prepare," Lester said. "The biggest thing is to be healthy going into the season. If they want to get me up to 85, 90, 100 pitches in my next two, that's fine. I'll go out there and do it and hopefully be ready for the season."

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.