Boston Red Sox: Ten Greatest Starting Pitchers of All-Time

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#8: Jon Lester

Jun 12, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester (31) walks back to the dug out after being relieved during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester made his debut with the Red Sox in 2006 as a 22-year-old rookie. He started only 15 games that season, going 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA, a mild contributor on a forgettable team.

He had some health complications late in his rookie season that were later revealed to be an early form of cancer. Luckily, Lester was diagnosed early, and doctors were able to give him the best possible treatment before the cancer spread. After intense chemotherapy CT scans showed the cancer to be in remission, in December of 2006.

With that behind him, Lester miraculously joined the team for Spring Training that season. They took it slow with his return, as he pitched in the minor leagues at the beginning of the year. In late July, Lester made his 2007 debut with the Red Sox, and continued to be a part of the rotation for the rest of the season.

Lester was added to the Red Sox 2007 post season roster, but ended up being a little-used reliever. That was, until the World Series.

With the Red Sox leading the series 3-0, they gave Lester the start for the World Series clinching game four. Lester pitched brilliantly, not giving up any runs in 5.2 innings of work. The Red Sox went on to win the game, clinching the 2007 World Series. Lester went from having a form of cancer to winning the clinching game in the World Series in one-year’s time.

Winning that game to clinch the World Series became a major turning point in Lester’s career. From that point forward, he became the true ace of the Boston Red Sox staff. He went 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 2008, and that was a start of four consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins and an ERA under 3.50.

Lester was the unquestioned ace of the staff during that time, including for their 2013 World Series championship run. He not only led the pitching staff through the regular season, but was an essential part of the post season run, pitching in the Red Sox biggest games and always coming through when they needed them the most.

His 2014 season was statistically the best of Lester’s career. He posted a strong 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 143 innings pitched in the first half, before the Red Sox traded him away to the Oakland Athletics.

The Red Sox did not appear to be competitive, and Lester was set to get a huge pay-day in free agency at the end of the season. It is always hard to watch your team’s stars leave, but it made sense for the Red Sox to deal Lester. They made a strong push to get him back that off season, but Lester decided to take a larger deal, signing a massive six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

He was a huge part of two World Series championships, and over-came the largest obstacle anyone can ever imagine. Lester deserved his huge pay-day, and will always have an important place in Red Sox history.

Next: THE Big Game Pitcher