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Jon Lester's future: Bright or Bleak?

No matter how you slice it, Jon Lester hasn't been good in his four starts as a Red Sox this season. In fact, his outings are getting worse as time goes on. After we saw so much promise last season and during his tenure in the minor leagues, what can we really expect out of Lester for 2007 and beyond?

Here's how Lester breaks down so far this season:

GS      W       L       IP      H       ER      BB      SO      ERA     WHIP
4       1       0       21.0    27      15      9       16      6.43    1.714

It's not pretty at all. His hits and walks are too high and his strikeouts are surprisingly low. His 1.71 WHIP is way out of control; no one is going to be successful when their WHIP is above 1.40. Let's not even talk about his ERA, one which Julian Tavarez can even snicker at.

As much as I want Lester to succeed and be a great starter for the Red Sox, I don't see it right now. To put it simply, I don't think he'll be a great, or even a good, starter for the Sox in 2007. I hope 2008 will be a different story, but I don't see the rest of the 2007 season turning around for him.

I think Lester is pretty exhausted mentally. He defeated cancer and now is back doing what he loves most, but I don't think his head is completely into the game. I don't think he's really at his peak yet. He's back and that seems to satisfy him enough at this point.

What Lester needs is an off-season where the only thing he needs to worry about is baseball -- no off the field issues. He needs to go home after the Red Sox win the World Series in October (yeah, I said it) and pinpoint what he did well and what he did poorly. He really needs to sit down, watch tape and become a professional pitcher. That'll put Lester where he needs to be as a major league player.

Lester has the stuff to be a great major league pitcher. I don't think anyone doubts that. He's got some great breaking pitches and has a lot of zip on the fastball. He just needs to put it all together. Relax, think and throw.

The rest of 2007 may be an adjustment for Lester, but 2008 should be his breakout season. I hope Red Sox Nation has the patience because he can be something special.