Doctors pronounce Red Sox hurler Lester cancer-free

Updated: December 5, 2006, 9:56 PM ET
Associated Press

Jon Lester
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jon Lester's doctors have told him he's cancer-free from lymphoma, and the Boston Red Sox pitcher is planning to report to training camp on time.

"It was my expectation from the beginning to be at spring training at some point," Lester said Tuesday. "Now that everything is looking good and ready to go, I'm ready to be there on the reporting day that pitchers and catchers need to be there."

Lester won his first five starts as a rookie this year and was 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA when he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma at the end of August, ending his season.

Lester underwent four courses of chemotherapy before a scan came up clean.

"I'm cancer-free right now. That's it. I have one more treatment Dec. 21 and then I'll be done," Lester told reporters on a conference call. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. When Dec. 21 comes around, it will start sinking in then. It really won't hit home until spring training."

Red Sox pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 16. This time, Lester will have a new perspective on his profession.

"Before, I took everything very seriously when it came to baseball. It's what I do, and it's my job," he said. "Now that I've realized it can be taken away, I'm definitely going to enjoy things a little more, not take the little things so seriously, just go out and enjoy them."

The 22-year-old lefty threw for the first time on Monday, and has been lifting weights to try to keep in shape; he has lost about 10 pounds.

"Nothing strenuous, nothing too difficult," he said.

Lester has been one of Boston's top prospects since he was drafted in 2002, one frequently requested by other teams in trade talks. But doctors discovered enlarged lymph nodes when Lester was tested to determine the cause of back pain that sent him to the disabled list on Aug. 28.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said at baseball's winter meetings that he has been in touch with Lester and called the prognosis "probably the most important thing that could happen down here."

"So, from where I sit, the meetings are already a success," Francona said.

General manager Theo Epstein said he was expecting to call Lester later Tuesday.

"Obviously, we're over the moon about this and couldn't be happier for Jon and his family," Epstein said.

Lester thanked the fans who reached out to him during his treatment, saying he heard from others with cancer -- kids and the elderly alike.

"It got to the point that it was so nice I couldn't read the stuff any more because I didn't want people feeling sorry for me. But it didn't go unnoticed," he said. "Even though it's been a bad experience, it's been a good experience because you see a lot of good things come out of people."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press