FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston's Jon Lester is working on his changeup. Pittsburgh's Ian Snell wants to change his fortunes.
Both took another step along those paths Thursday when they started against each other in the Pirates' 3-2 exhibition win over the Red Sox.The 6-foot-2, left-handed Lester, who emerged as Boston's best starter last year, pitched two scoreless innings. The 5-foot-11, right-handed Snell allowed two unearned runs in two innings in his only appearance before leaving to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic."I'm going to be on the same exact schedule that I've been on all spring," Snell said. "If anything, pitching in games that count this early in the season is only going to make me be ready for the season even faster."Snell wasn't drafted by Pittsburgh until the 26th round in 2000. Boston took Lester in the second round in 2002. Both pitched well in their first two seasons when they pitched regularly.In 2006, Snell was 14-11 and Lester was 7-2 before his season ended when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In 2007, Snell had a 3.76 ERA but a 9-12 record, while Lester was 4-0 as he continued to gain strength after being declared cancer-free, then won the clinching game in Boston's sweep of the World Series against Colorado.Snell struggled last year when he went 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA. But in the second year of a three-year contract, he figures to be in the middle of this season's rotation with help from new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who once held that job with Boston.Lester's progress continued last year with a 16-6 record and 3.21 ERA. Now he thinks throwing the changeup more -- in addition to his fastball and splitter -- will make him even better."I'm not trying to have the best changeup in the league," he said. "I'm just trying to get a changeup that's effective and one that I can throw behind in the count or whenever we need to."Working on that pitch also saves wear on his arm that comes with throwing the cutter a lot in spring training.He was "strong out of the chute. The velocity was really strong in the first inning, especially," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.Lester struck out one and allowed singles to Andy LaRoche in the first inning and Brandon Moss in the second.Boston took a 2-0 lead on Jeff Bailey's two-run single after an error by shortstop Brian Bixler in the first. Snell threw 33 pitches in the inning, then struck out the side in the second."I was really pleased with the way I threw because I kept a lot of pitches down in the strike zone. That was a real problem for me last year," Snell said. "Kerrigan watched some video of me over the winter, made one adjustment and now I'm keeping the ball down."After Lester left the game, six Boston relievers held Pittsburgh to two hits in six innings. Then minor leaguer Richie Lentz had control problems and gave up three runs in the ninth, with the first two scoring on a double by pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez, who signed a $6,355,000, four-year contract after being taken second overall in last June's draft."You see what happens in the ninth when you don't throw strikes," Francona said.Lester showed what happens when he does throw strikes. He did it on 19 of his 30 pitches, about a third of them the changeup that he rarely used last year."That was probably because I didn't prepare as well in spring training with it" because he concentrated more on his fastball, he said. "This year I feel more comfortable with my fastball and my command and I feel that I can spend the time in the bullpen working on other pitches."
Boston traded Moss to Pittsburgh on July 31. Lester said he had faced his former teammate in minor league batting practice and the Red Sox major league camp. "I think that was the first time he's ever made contact off of me," Lester said with a grin. ... Boston RHP Takashi Saito struck out two and allowed a single in the third, his first outing since being signed after having elbow problems last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "We've been kind of easing him into it, (but) you put him in a game and here comes 93 (mph) with a pretty good breaking ball," Francona said. ... LF Jason Bay, obtained from the Pirates on July 31, didn't play for Boston.