Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester |

Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester

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Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 25, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game on Friday, July 25, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

SAN FRANCISCO — With the NL Central title up for grabs, the Pirates have touched base with the Red Sox about a possible trade for left-hander Jon Lester, an industry source told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the source said, the Pirates had not yet made a formal offer for Lester.

Pirates special assistant Marc DelPiano was at Fenway Park on Tuesday when the Red Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays. In addition to Lester, the Pirates also have interest in members of Boston’s bullpen.

The nonwaiver trade deadline is 4 p.m. Thursday. Lester was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Blue Jays.

According to the Boston Globe, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Triple-A right-hander Brandon Workman has been lined up to fill in against Toronto if Lester is dealt.

Lester, who is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 21 starts for the Red Sox, might be the piece the Pirates need to win a tight NL Central race.

“He would immediately become their No. 1 (pitcher),” said one scout, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. “His control has been very good. His pitches are in an elite division, and his cutter is still his main weapon. He’s very polished. He brings the ‘it’ factor to a winning club.”

Going into Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, the Pirates were two games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and only one-half game out of a wild-card berth. Can one marquee player be a difference-maker?

“Sure, there’s that possibility that it could happen,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hurdle pointed to when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia in a trade with the Cleveland Indians in 2008. Sabathia went 11-2 after switching teams, and Milwaukee claimed a wild-card berth.

“It turned out to be a pretty good move for them,” Hurdle said. “It helped get them into the playoffs. It’s an impact player on a pitching staff that didn’t have that kind of guy.”

Lester, 30, is in the final year of his six-year, $42.75 million contract. He is owed about $4.3 million for the rest of this season.

Covering Lester’s remaining 2014 salary would not be a stretch for the Pirates. However, the acquisition cost — at least two top-notch minor leaguers — could be steep enough to give general manager Neal Huntington second thoughts.

A package for Lester probably would have to include at least two of their top-10 prospects such as outfielder Josh Bell and pitcher Tyler Glasnow. The quality of prospects could change if the Pirates offered an established major league pitcher.

That’s a steep price for a player who would be a two-month rental.

Also, any team that trades for Lester would not receive compensation if he signs elsewhere this offseason as a free agent. During spring training, Lester spurned a four-year, $70 million offer from Boston.

Huntington and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington are good friends, and their teams have swapped players four times since 2012.

Banister will manage in fall

This offseason, Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister will serve a second stint as manager of the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

Banister managed the Scorpions to a 15-16 record in 2009. He was a finalist to manage the Pirates in 2010, when Hurdle was hired.

The Scorpions will be composed of players from the Pirates, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Giants farm systems.

The AFL season begins Oct. 7 and wraps Nov. 15.

Player rosters will be released next month.

Planet of the aches

Starling Marte is eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list Wednesday but needs more time to recover from concussion symptoms.

Marte might be asked to go on a minor league rehab stint before being activated.

“There’s a process involved,” Hurdle said. “(Tuesday) was a good day. We’ll have a sit-down conversation with him about what we feel is best for him next.”

Marte shagged flies, hit in the outdoor cage and took part in running drills Tuesday afternoon. He ran short sprints from home plate to first base and also ran from first to third.

Worley rolls Giants

The way Vance Worley was cruising Monday night, the Giants never stood a chance.

With a tidy, 100-pitch performance, Worley guided the Pirates to a 5-0 victory in the opener of a three-game set at AT&T Park. Of the Giants’ five baserunners, only one made it as far as second base.

The Pirates did all their scoring in the first two innings. Worley had no problem making the lead stand.

“I was just rolling at that point,” Worley said.

Worley threw 71 strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 18 of 29 batters. He had only three three-ball counts; there were no balls in 13 at-bats.

It was the 27th time in 63 career starts Worley had thrown 100 or more pitches in a game. Yet he never had been so efficient. In the fourth and fifth innings, he threw a total of 12 pitches.

“When pitchers throw strikes and the rhythm and tempo of the game is working, the defense really has a chance to show up,” Hurdle said. “It’s fun to watch.”

It’s no coincidence the fourth and fifth were the frames when infielders Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker made spectacular defensive plays.

“The more they can stay on their toes and less on their heels, it allows them to stay in the moment, be with me every pitch and play defense,” Worley said.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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