Lester wins award for overcoming adversity
BOSTON -- Jon Lester, who came back from a cancer diagnosis in 2006 to win this year's World Series clincher for Boston, was honored Wednesday with the Tony Conigliaro Award for overcoming adversity through spirit, determination and courage.
The 23-year-old pitcher was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in August 2006. After cancer treatment during the offseason, he started the year on the disabled list. Lester was recalled in July and finished the regular season 4-0 with a 4.57 ERA.
Lester is cancer-free and will have another checkup when he returns to Boston in January to receive the award.
"It's just a storybook-type ending," he said. "If you'd have told me that at the end of last year in spring training that we would have been in that situation, I probably would have laughed at you."
The award, which will be presented at the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner on Jan. 17, is named for the promising Red Sox player whose career was derailed when he was hit in the face by a pitch in 1967.
Pitching coach John Farrell said Lester looks great and "will be counted on heavily once spring training opens."
The team will have an abbreviated spring training in Florida because of its Tokyo opener against Oakland on March 25. Questions remain about the rotation.
"It's important to acknowledge that, yes, some informal discussions have been had on the six-man rotation, pros and cons to it. But we also look at the schedule and the amount of off days that we'll have, particularly with the international travel," Farrell said. "But I think, most importantly, we want to keep all our pitchers as healthy and as strong as possible, even into September and beyond."
To that end, Lester this week joined Curt Schilling, Manny Delcarmen, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden and Caleb Clay for offseason workouts at Fenway. Tim Wakefield was expected to join them Thursday.
"It's a combination of guys that had needs, whether it was surgery-related at some point during the season or just a condition that we felt warranted further evaluation and to monitor where they are in their offseason program," Farrell said.
Joining Lester in receiving awards at the writers' dinner were first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the Jackie Jensen Award, which goes to a Red Sox player for hustle and determination; Terry Francona as the MLB manager of the year, as voted by the chapter; and Jacoby Ellsbury and Buchholz as Red Sox minor-league players of the year.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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