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Exceeding Expectations

BOSTON–Whatever plans the Red Sox had for Jon Lester when he arrived at spring training changed as soon as he threw his first pitch.

A candidate for extended spring training, Lester instead made the Class A Augusta rotation. What seemed like a bit of a gamble has turned out to be a no-brainer.

A 2002 second-round pick, Lester opened the season 1-1, 1.85 in his first five starts. He struck out 20 and walked 11 in 24 innings.

"It was really up in the air where we were going to start him going into the spring," farm director Ben Cherington said. "We knew he had the maturity to handle the professional game. Once we saw his command of three pitches, his mound presence and his work ethic, he pitched himself onto the team."

Signed for $1 million–the only seven-figure bonus outside the first round–Lester is already providing a return on Boston’s investment. Minor league pitching coordinator Goose Gregson calls the 19-year-old the most mature high school pitcher he’s ever seen.

Lester, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, has benefited from an organization philosophy to make high school and young Latin pitchers throw curveballs. Lester came to the Sox out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash., with an 88-92 mph fastball, changeup and slider.

The Sox have shelved the slider in favor of Lester’s curveball.

"The curveball has a chance to change eye level," Cherington said. "That’s especially in today’s game, which seems to be more about up and down than in and out."

Lester opened the season with 313 shutout innings before reaching his pitch limit. He has maintained similar success while increasing his pitch count.

Sox Yarns

• High Class A Sarasota righthander Manny Delcarmen will have Tommy John surgery and miss 12-18 months. Delcarmen injured his arm throwing a changeup in his fourth start. He had opened the season 1-1, 3.13. "It’s disheartening, but we’re trying to focus on the fact that this is something he can come back from," Cherington said. "If he attacks his rehab the way he attacked his development this season, he’ll come back as good as or better than before."

• Triple-A Pawtucket shortstop Freddy Sanchez ranked third in the International League with a .395 average. His .485 on-base percentage ranked second.

• Previous organization reports: Manny Delcarmen

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