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July 04. 2014 7:23PM

Lester, Sox put off contract talks; Rains push Friday matinee to Saturday


Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester sits in the dugout during the third inning of Saturday's game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Contract talks between the Boston Red Sox and left-handed starter Jon Lester are being postponed until the end of the season, according to CBSSports.com.

Lester reportedly told the team he wants to focus on pitching so the negotiations do not become a distraction.

Lester is in the final year of his contract so he can become a free agent at the end of the season. However, both sides want to work out a long-term deal.

The New York Yankees are expected to be one of several teams interested in Lester when he is a free agent. Lester has said he wants to remain with the Red Sox, a team he has helped win World Series titles in 2007 and 2013.

The Red Sox wanted to continue negotiating with Lester on a new deal, but are respecting his wishes to put off talks.

According to Yahoo Sports, the Red Sox initially offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal. The two sides have met throughout the spring, but Lester asked to table the discussions. It is not clear if the Red Sox upped their original offer.

Lester is 9-7 with a 2.92 ERA this season. He is coming off his best month of the season in which he went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in June.

Let’s play two Saturday

The Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles scheduled for Friday afternoon was postponed due to inclement weather associated with Hurricane Arthur.

Despite only light rain falling in the hours leading up to the original 1:35 p.m. start time, forecasts called for moderate to heavy rain showers throughout the afternoon and evening hours.

The game was rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. The first game will be played at 1:05 p.m. with the second regularly scheduled game remaining at 7:15 p.m. The forecast calls for only a 10 percent chance of rain today.

Lester (9-7), who was slated to pitch Friday, will start Game 1 Saturday, while John Lackey (9-5) will make his regularly scheduled start in the nightcap.

While Baltimore has yet to announce its Saturday starters, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (4-5) likely will pitch the opener after he was supposed to take the mound Friday. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8) was originally slated to pitch Saturday night.

Lester is coming off his best month of the season in June and will once again look to rescue the reeling Red Sox, who have lost three straight games and nine of their past 13.

Lester went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in June, and is fresh off one of his strongest outings of the season June 28 against the New York Yankees. The left-hander allowed one unearned run on five hits over eight innings, leading Boston to a 2-1 win. It was the fourth time in six June starts that Lester had allowed one unearned run or less.

Lackey, meanwhile, is coming off his two shortest outings of the season. The right-hander gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of a 12-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on June 23, and followed that by surrendering five runs — four earned — over five innings on Sunday.

The Orioles come to Fenway on a roll after sweeping a four-game series with the Texas Rangers this week. They entered the day tied with the Toronto Blue Jays atop the American League-East standings.

Baltimore will get a boost from the return of Manny Machado in the second game today after the third baseman finishes serving a five-game suspension stemming from incidents on June 6 and June 8 against the Oakland Athletics.

Machado, who lost his appeal on the ruling, was suspended four games for a bat-throwing incident against the A’s, and one game for an incident two days earlier when he took exception to a hard tag by Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The 21-year-old was just starting to show signs of a turnaround this season before his suspension. He had homered in three of his past four games and hit safely in seven of his previous eight.

An All-Star and Gold Glove winner in his first full season last year, Machado is batting .239 with seven homers and 17 RBIs this season.

The postponement could not have come at a better time for the Orioles, who arrived in Boston early Friday morning after they were forced to wait until 2 a.m. to board their flight from Baltimore.


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