10/24/07 8:49 PM ET
Notes: Lester on tap for Game 4
With Wakefield out, southpaw to make first playoff start
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
"We fully intend for Lester to pitch Game 4," Francona said. "But again, there could be weather, there could be things that happen during games that change things. So that's the only reason I said that yesterday. We fully intend for Jon to pitch. He threw four innings [in a simulated game], and unless something crazy happens, he will pitch."
The unavailability of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has created the opening for Lester. In the first two rounds of the postseason, Lester was used out of the bullpen.
Though the left-hander wasn't happy that the highly respected Wakefield (ongoing right shoulder soreness) had to bow out of the Fall Classic, Lester is thrilled at the chance to take the ball in a World Series game.
"He was excited about the opportunity," Francona said. "But in a good way -- not the giddy young kid. He's a determined young man, and I think that was kind of fun to see."
Last year at this time, Lester was still undergoing chemotherapy treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma. But aside from his first game back for the Red Sox in July, Lester has tried to stay away from talking about the human interest side of things and just concentrate on pitching.
Still, his teammates are no less excited for him.
"I think there's a lot of guys in that clubhouse that are like me when it comes to Jonny," said Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling. "The other night when we were on the field and won [the pennant], I said to him: 'How awesome when you think about where you were a year ago and where you are now, and there's a chance you're going to pitch in the World Series.' His situation, I think, had a profound effect on all of us -- being able to go through it, having knowledge of who and what he was before he went into that, and coming out of it the way he did, with the ups and downs of the season."
Because of what Lester went through, it took him a while to get in top pitching form this season. But he was at his best in September, going 2-0 with a 3.34 ERA in six games, five of which were starts.
In Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Lester fired three innings in relief, yielding just one hit and striking out four.
Lineup tinkering: After scoring 30 runs in the final three games of the ALCS, Francona was not about to overhaul his lineup. But he did make some cosmetic changes with lefty Jeff Francis pitching for the Rockies.
Switch-hitter Jason Varitek vaulted over the lefty swinging J.D. Drew in the batting order and hit sixth. Julio Lugo moved from ninth to eighth. And lefty Jacoby Ellsbury moved down a spot to the No. 9 hole.
Francona indicated that Coco Crisp probably would have started in center field instead of Ellsbury if not for some discomfort in his left knee.
"Well, with Francis pitching and Ellsbury playing, and they have three left-handers in the bullpen, we didn't want to make it easier on them than we need to," Francona said. "'Tek took some pretty good swings, he gives some pretty good protection for Mike Lowell."
Before the game, Francona didn't have an update on Crisp's condition.
Snyder thrilled: Right-hander Kyle Snyder left Fenway Park following Tuesday's workout feeling pretty certain he was not going to be on the World Series roster. Snyder, who was on Boston's active roster all year long, was a tough omission for Francona the first two rounds of the postseason. But with Wakefield having to come off the roster, it came down to Snyder, Julian Tavarez and Bryan Corey for the final spot.
When Francona initially called Snyder to give him the news, the righty's phone was turned off. Snyder got the message a little while later and promptly called Francona back.
"I compare it to the first time I ever got called up," said Snyder. "It's as proud a moment as I've ever had in my career. I'm really happy to be a part of this. Not that I wasn't happy about it all along, going wire-to-wire with this ballclub, but this is, for me, the icing on the cake."
Snyder was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 First Year Player Draft by the Kansas City Royals, but multiple arm surgeries helped to derail his goal of being an ace starting pitcher.
But after settling into a niche with the Red Sox this year as a middle reliever, Snyder now will get an opportunity to pitch in the World Series.
Ortiz will dictate Coors lineup: The biggest factor when Francona makes out his lineup for the three games at Coors Field? The state of David Ortiz's right knee, which has bothered him on and off all season.
If Ortiz feels up to it, he will probably start all three games at first base. That would leave Francona with the decision of taking either Lowell or Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup.
Ortiz, who had a cortisone shot in late September, did not need to have one before the World Series.
Support system: Count New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spent some time with the Red Sox in Spring Training, and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers among those who have wished Francona well during this postseason.
"Bill has e-mailed twice," said Francona. "That was very nice."
Francona and Rivers have developed a little bit of a friendship the last couple of years.
"Doc actually text [messaged] me in Cleveland [during the ALCS]," Francona said. "We went back and forth a couple of times. I hate to use the word touching, because I don't want to be overly dramatic, but it was really nice. I don't want to pretend that I go to dinner with Doc Rivers, but he's a really nice guy. Every time I see him, he's about as down to earth as can be."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.