Fourteen months ago, Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer. On Sunday in Colorado, the left-hander will be starting Game 4 of the World Series for the Red Sox, culminating the long road back to the Majors.
"If we win it, that will be the ultimate punctuation," Lester told the Boston Herald. "Hopefully we can go ahead and do that. It really hasn't sunk in yet. It hasn't sunk in that I'm going to be pitching in the World Series."
Lester was placed into the starting rotation after it was determined Tim Wakefield would be unable to pitch in the World Series due to a shoulder injury. Lester last started a game on Sept. 26 against Oakland, and his teammates look forward to seeing him on the mound against the Rockies.
"His situation, I think, had a profound effect on all of us, being able to see him go through it," said Curt Schilling, who won Game 2 for the Red Sox Thursday night. "Speaking (as) someone that knows and is married to a cancer survivor, the beauty of it is that Game 4 of the World Series is going to be a whole lot different than had he not gone through what he went through. There's no mountain he can't climb, there's no hurdle he can't jump."
Lester has made two relief appearances this postseason, both against Cleveland in the American League Championship Series. He threw a 65-pitch simulated game Tuesday and was happy with the way he threw.
"It felt all right," Lester said. "It had been a week since I had been on the mound, so I felt a little rusty at first, but I came out of it healthy, and my arm feels pretty good, even though I probably hadn't thrown that many pitches in about a month. It was just good to get some work in."
Beckett putting on a show for the ages: Boston pitcher Josh Beckett was dominant Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. But dominance seems to be expected from Beckett this postseason.
The Red Sox right-hander allowed only one run on six hits and one walk in seven innings of work. He struck out nine Rockies, including the first four he faced as his first 17 pitches were fastballs. Becket is now 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four playoff starts this year.
"He's just got such good stuff and it seems like he's executing all his pitches," third baseman Mike Lowell, who was a teammate of Beckett's with the 2003 Florida Marlins, told the Boston Herald. "In '03, I thought it was the best streak I've ever seen of any pitcher, and he's made a good comparison this postseason. That's as dominating as he's ever been."
Unlike Lowell, who watched Beckett earn the World Series MVP award in 2003, first baseman Kevin Youkilis is watching Beckett perform in the postseason for the first time. He is getting to see a masterful performance.
"He's proven himself over the whole year of how good a pitcher he is, and now he's just stepping up even more and showing you that he's probably one of the best pitchers in the game right now," Youkilis said.
In 72 postseason innings pitched in his career, Beckett is 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA. Against the Rockies, Beckett took control of the game from the start, throwing his 95 to 97 mile per hour fastball past Colorado hitters who had not played a game in eight days.
Pedroia, Youkilis setting the table: David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have earned a lot of attention for what they have done during this postseason. But the Boston duo wouldn't have such huge numbers without the help of leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia and No. 2 hitter Kevin Youkilis.
Both players got hot in the ALCS, helping Boston overcome a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series. Pedroia and Youkilis continued their hot hitting in Game 1 of the World Series against Colorado.
Pedroia hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first inning and drew a walk and had two RBIs while Youkilis was 2-for-5 with two doubles, a walk, one RBI and three runs scored.
"Our motto is always early and often and try to get as many runs through," Youkilis told the Boston Herald. "And Dustin, like he came up there and hit that home run, and that was huge. I think when he got that hit and got this offense going, I think that was one of the keys to the game."
Youkilis leads all hitters this postseason in hits, extra-base hits, runs scored and multihit games. The Rockies were able to finally slow him down Thursday night as Youkilis was 0-for-3. He still drew two walks, however, while Pedroia was 1-for-4 with a walk.
Fielder earns NL Players Choice Award: Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the National League in voting by players for the Players Choice Award, Brewers.com reported. Fielder beat out finalists Matt Holliday of Colorado and David Wright of New York in the National League. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees earned the top honor in the American League.
"That's an awesome feeling, knowing that the guys you play against every day respect how you play and how you go out there and give 100 percent," Fielder told Yahoo.com, which announced the results on a webcast.
Fielder led the National League with 50 home runs, becoming the youngest player in Major League history to hit that many homers in a season. He also had 119 RBIs to lead the Brewers and scored 109 runs.
"The whole year I kind of surprised myself," Fielder said on the webcast. "Growing up, you never say you are going to hit 50 home runs or be in a pennant race or anything like this. This whole year was great all-around in terms of my season and the team's."
Each Players Choice Award winner designates the charity of his choice to receive a grant from the Players Trust in an amount ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. Since 1996, the Trust has given over $3.1 million to 143 charities as a result of Players Choice Awards.
Fielder didn't specify which charity would get a donation in his name.
Pirates' Pearce earns Minor League honor: Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Steve Pearce, who went from Class A Lynchburg all the way to the Pirates in 2007, has been named as the first Pirates player to receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, an award that has been given since 1988 to the Topps Minor League Player of the Year.
The award comes in addition to his other honors this year that have included the MiLB.com Offensive Player of the Year, as well being named a Baseball America Minor League All-Star earlier this month. He also earned the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year award, which was presented to the 24-year-old first baseman/right fielder on the final day of the regular season.
"This award is a big deal for Steve, and recognition of the incredible season that he had," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told MLB.com. "We're thrilled for Steve and the work that he put in this year."
Everyone who managed Pearce seemed to be astounded at what he was able to accomplish.
"Steven put up some offensive numbers that are very rare, and enjoyed success at four different levels," said Triple-A Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett. "Steven adjusted quickly at every stop, and I'm sure that was a big part of his success. He did a nice job gathering information, filtering information and utilizing his skills towards those situations."
At three Minor League levels, Pearce batted .333 with 31 home runs, 40 doubles and 113 RBIs.
Some ask 'Why?'; Moyer asks 'Why not?': Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, who will turn 45 this off-season, plans to be back in Philadelphia next year for his 25th season in professional baseball. Which begs the question, how long does he think he can go?
"I am curious," Moyer told the Seattle Times. "As of today, I have my health. I got through a healthy season. I still feel I can compete. I know I can still play the game.
"At some point, maybe it's next year, maybe it's two years down the road, I'll go out on the field and I just can't do it. But if I can and right now I know that I can, why not? Just because somebody says you're too old? Or your birth certificate says you're a certain age?"
In 2007, Moyer showed no signs of slowing down with 199 1/3 innings pitched and 14 victories.
"I don't do it any differently now than I did five years ago, 10 years ago," he said. "I don't think I throw any slower. It's all about location for me. And if I have my health and I believe I can still compete, why can't I keep pitching?"
Indians' Lewis wants different outcome next time: Cleveland Indians pitcher Jensen Lewis has made one thing pretty clear -- he doesn't plan on watching any of the World Series. After his team lost three straight in the ALCS to Boston, he's ready to take a break.
"I've got such a sick feeling in my stomach (from losing Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox)," Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I don't think any of us (Indians players) will watch it. You think a lot of the what-ifs."
After the final out in Boston on Sunday night, Lewis stood on the top step of the dugout to watch the Red Sox celebrate.
"Sometimes you've got to feel the way we did," Lewis reasoned. "When you get back on your training program, you want to remember that celebration; you want to be able to use it as motivation. I want to be the one celebrating with champagne on the field."
It was then that Lewis witnessed Red Sox star David Ortiz turn toward the Indians dugout and give the thumbs-up sign and a fist pump.
"I took that as a nice compliment," said Lewis. "It was his way of saying, 'You pushed us to the edge.' For him to do that in the midst of their celebration was a very classy thing to do."
Closer Nathan expected back with the Twins: Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan believes that the Twins are very close to exercising his option for 2008, going to far as to say it could happen in a matter of days.
"We're just waiting for some paperwork," Nathan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Nathan was 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 2007, with 37 saves in 41 attempts. In addition to wanting to be back with the Twins in 2008, Nathan has expressed an interest in an extension. According to his agent, Dave Pepe, those talks between him and general manager Bill Smith have not yet begun.
"Bill and I have had conversations about a lot of things," said Pepe. "Nothing specific in terms of hammering out a contract."
No new offer from Twins yet for Hunter: Torii Hunter, set to become a free agent after the World Series, hasn't yet received an offer to stay in Minnesota.
"I'm kind of disappointed, but what can you do?" Hunter told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "That's my home team; I want to be with my home team. But there are no talks, no progress at all. It's still the same. But there's still a lot of time left."
That doesn't mean it won't happen, though. "So they might be talking over some things, and maybe they'll come up with something later," he said. "Maybe it's going to take them a week or two or three weeks."
Not having anything done yet, though, isn't a surprise to Hunter.
"Not at all," he said. "But I'm in a good position, and I'm happy. I'm kind of disappointed, but I'm happy. I can't explain it to people because everybody thinks it's about money. But it has nothing to do with money; I'm going to get paid no matter what. Right?"
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.