The obvious question, after the worst start of Jon Lester's career: Is he hurt?
His manager says no. The pitching coach says no. The Red Sox left-hander says no.
So did a scout who was in Fenway Park Sunday. “It did not look like it,’’ he said.
What, then, did the scout see?
“His delivery lacked angle,’’ he said. “Because of that his fastball was often up in the zone with flat action, rather than driving it down as he has in the past. He also seemed to have a limited feel for changing speeds to slow the Jays’ bats. They were dialed into his speed, and looking for something up in the zone. They got it often.’’
All four of Toronto’s home runs off Lester Sunday came on pitches up in the zone.
The most incomprehensible aspect of Lester’s season has been his performance at home. Among big-league pitchers with 20 innings or more at home Lester’s 7.39 is the highest in the American League. Last season, Lester had a 3.49 ERA at home in 13 starts.
Lester has given up 12 home runs in 67 innings already at Fenway this season, compared to 7 in 80 innings in 2011. He has allowed 93 hits and 24 walks, leaving him with a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) of 1.75, highest in the American League. And the 38 extra-base hits he has allowed at home are the most in baseball.
Lester, while professing his love for Boston in an interview last week with ESPNBoston.com, seemed receptive to the possibility of being traded, which was an unthinkable prospect when this season started, less so now.
"It's not up to me,’’ he said. “One thing I know in baseball is you should never be comfortable where you are. It doesn't matter who you are. It's a business. If I got traded tomorrow, no hard feelings, it's a business.
"Would I be sad? Yeah. Like I said, we've got a house here, we made a lot of good friends here, we just started a foundation here. It'd be tough. It'd be tough on my family, but it is what it is. It's like being transferred in a business -- you've got to go where they tell you."
Lester even hinted that a change of scenery might be beneficial.
"That's one of those questions you don't know until it happens or doesn't happen," he said. "I think if you asked Youk that he'd say the same thing. Hey, I love it here, but I don't know if a change of scenery is good. I haven't had a change of scenery. I think when you leave Boston, unless you go to a New York or Chicago, it can't do anything but help you.
"This is a tough place to play, you know? I love playing here because it makes people accountable. ... I love that part about this place, but I think if you go from here to, I don't know, Texas, it would probably be easier to play. You don't have to worry about other things. You just go out and play."