Where will Lester land? Oakland

* LHP Jon Lester, the ace of the Boston Red Sox was scratched from his start against the Blue Jays Wednesday night. What uniform will he be wearing for his next start? ....  

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By Bob Elliott

BOSTON _ Jon Lester was scheduled to start Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

With trade speculation swirling, he was scratched in favour of Brandon Workman.

Has Lester made his final start in the a Red Sox uniform?

Will he walk down the dark hallway underneath the Fenway grandstand to the visitors clubhouse and start for the Toronto Blue Jays?

The Jays have been the most aggressive of the teams in the hunt for Lester according to a CSNNE.com report since Boston made Lester the best starter available heading into Thursday’s 4 o’clock non-waiver trade deadline. Jays scouts have told other teams that they are out of the Lester sweepstakes.

Now does aggressive mean Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos phoned Boston GM Ben Cherrington and then constantly hit re-deal, even pocket dialed him a few times, or does it mean that the Jays have offered the most?

The question still unanswered by Rogers Communications is whether they will give Anthopoulos any dough to improve the product as the Jays try to end their string of zero Octobers which dates back to 1993.

And picking up the tab on roughly 1/3 of newcomer platoon third baseman Danny Valencia’s $532,500 US contract does not really constitute a big industry outlay.

Adding Lester, a free-agent at the end of the season, would cost players and Rogers would be responsible for 1/3 of $13 million that the lefty will earn this year.

Would the Jays move Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez for 12 Lester starts.

Absolutely not.

But what about prized prospect lefty Daniel Norris and outfielder Dalton Pompey, who are already in New England, at double-A New Hampshire.

You might say no, but consider ...

The Jays dealt Jeff Kent, who went on to play 17 seasons, collect 2,461 hits, 377 homers, knock in 1,518 runs with an .855 OPS, and outfielder Ryan Thompson to the New York Mets for seven David Cone starts in an Aug. 27, 1992 deal.

And the next year they moved former No. 1 pick Steve Karsay, who pitched in 357 games in 11 years, and minor league outfielder Jose Herrera to the Oakland A’s for 44 games of Rickey Henderson half an hour before the July 31, 1993 midnight deadline. Henderson would have played more but he fouled a ball off his foot at Fenway and was told to use a new ice pack on his injury. He suffered second degree burns, but that’s another story.

Lester turned down a four-year, $70-million Boston offer in the spring and watched as the Cincinnati Reds gave Homer Bailey a six-year $105 million contract. Lester has said he’ll still consider re-signing with Boston if dealt.

And the Red Sox are losing the battle in the court of the public opinion as their homegrown player is about the exit after bungled talks during the spring.

The Lester list of suitors includes the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Jays -- basically any contender -- and we have not heard of the Hiroshima Carp’s interest yet.

The Red Sox say that they will move Lester within the division ... excepting the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees.

The last time Boston and the Jays made a deal?

GM J.P. Ricciardi sold Eric Hinske’s contract to the Red Sox on Aug. 17, 2006.

And of course there was the negotiated deal which saw Jays manager John Farrell and reliever David Carpenter go to Boston for Mike Aviles.

On Wednesday Lester had been traded to the Baltimore Orioles -- that was the word during batting practice Wednesday night.

He might be some day, but he hasn’t gone any where yet.

Is he going to the Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates or Milwaukee Brewers?

Possibly, but the destination of the Boston Red Sox lefty, scratched from Wednesday’s scheduled start remained uncertain.

Only one thing is sure heading into Thursday afternoon 4 o’clock deadline: he’s not coming to the Blue Jays. Jays are out of the Lester sweepstakes. Same for the St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners. In Boston they are comparing the impending deal to the Bruins moving Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche. Lester, a cancer survivor, won the clinching game of the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies and threw a no hitter against the Kansas City Royals. Only two other lefties have done that: Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson.

Lester, who battled lymphoma, took time out to talk to Jays broadcaster Joe Siddall, who lost his son Kevin to cancer last fall.

What could be going through Lester’s mind as he took batting practice with the Boston pitchers preparing for next week’s trip to St. Louis?

A second round pick in 2002, Lester has worn only one team’s uniform during his pro career.

Boston offered Lester a four-year $70 million deal earlier. Now the market has exploded after Detroit Tigers Max Scherzer rejected a six-year, $144 million.

“A trade wouldn’t perceive us from re-signing him, not in the literal sense,” Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told NESN. But once the stallion is out of the barn ... good luck literally or otherwise.

Why would the Red Sox not give him the money in the spring and give him double that this winter?

Boston has run the numbers and they are against giving lengthy deals to players over 30. Lester turns 31 in January.

“A lot of ball clubs are filled with uncertainly, some clubs are looking to add, some trying the sell,” Lucchino said. “Our approach to long term deals is not a blanket prohibition. We’ve evolved. We done some seven and eight year deals but we’re not going to preclude anything.

I hope we show a diversity in our portfolio.”

Scratching a starter is rare before the deadline but now the Sox are moving a lefty who can start the first or second day he arrives with his new team.

“We felt like it was best for all to back out of this for a couple of days with the start, just so he wasn’t carrying around all the uncertainty,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “It’s a unique set of circumstances, an extremely talented pitcher and as I mentioned yesterday, with all the uncertainty, It’s in the best interest of everyone involved that we push him back.”

Farrell said Lester would start Sunday against the New York Yankees.

“Jon has been a model for all that has been asked of him,” Farrell said. “The potential distractions, how he’s tried to keep that a minimum from his teammates, from himself. He’s been respectful to not only our owners and his teammates.”

It’s been a while since the Red Sox have tried to deal for prospects at the deadline. On deadline day 1997 Sox general manager Dan Duquette and Seattle Mariners GM Woody Woodward discussed acquiring reliever Heathcliff Slocumb for either Derek Lowe or catcher Jason Varitek in the afternoon.

Mariners manager Lou Piniella wanted bullpen help and acquired Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric from the Jays for outfielder Jose Cruz. Later Woodward phoned back and asked Duquette: “so we were talking about Lowe and Varitek, right?”

Duquette: “Yes.”

It was a done deal ... Woodward had turned the 1-for-1 deal into a 2-for-1 on his own.

Ben Cherrington is hoping that a flustered GM phones and makes the same mistake. Memories: Jays bullpen coach Bob Stanley went through the same uncertainty as Lester in the spring of 1978.

His name was in the papers every day as part of a package including right-hander Rick Wise, infielder Ted Cox, catcher Bo Diaz and right-hander Mike Paxton about to be sent to the Cleveland Indians for Dennis Eckersley and catcher Fred Kendall. Or so the papers said.

“I was young, I didn’t want to go, Boston was all I’d known,” said Stanley recalling the days leading to the eventual trade. “Who wanted to go to the Indians in those days when they played at Cleveland Stadium with few people coming to their games?”

The trade finally happened on the morning of March 30 when the Sox were getting ready to play a spring game at Winter Haven, Fla.

Manager Don Zimmer came out, spotted Diaz and Cox in the dugout and told them both to go into the office.

“I’ll never forget, I’m leaning on the tarp in right field with Paxton, Zimmer looks down, sees us, points down to us and motions to come in,” Stanley said Wednesday afternoon. “I pointed at myself and asked ‘me?” Zimmer shook his head no.” So off Paxton went to receive the news and then off to Cleveland he went with Wise, Cox, Diaz and Paxton for future Hall of Famer Eckersley and Kendall.

“Later I thanked Zimmer, he said ‘no way was I trading you,’” Stanley recalled about his late manager.

Big earner: Neco Navarro, eight, son of Jays catcher Dioneer Navarro says he won $1,000 from his pop by hitting a ball over the Green Monster from the outfield during early batting practice.

Jeter exit: The story of Target Field was Derek Jeter and his exit going the length of the dugout to say his farewells from his final all-star game. One of the last people the New York Yankee leaned in to hug was Brian Butterfield, the Boston Red Sox coach. Butterfield whispered into the ear of the infielder he’d coached in the minors.

“I told him I loved him,” Butterfield sat on Tuesday. “And I took a lot of flak on the radio here ... that a guy should not tell another guy that he loves him. Why not?”

Butterfield make a point of thanking Jeter on the workout day, for the impact the shortstop has had on both Butterfield and the coach’s family.

“I appreciate the way so many players speak so highly of him,” Butterfield said. “Baseball is not just the way catching or hitting the ball. It’s running hard 90 feet every time, it’s being a great teammate. it’s hustling.

“To me Derek Jeter is the greatest Yankee of all time.”

Three Jays makes starting nine: A St. Louis radio station came up with the all-anti Tony La Russa team which featured players the Hall of Fame manager had disputes with. Eli Marrero was behind the plate, Tino Martinez was at first, ex-Blue Jay Felipe Lopez and Adam Kennedy at second, ex-Jay Scott Rolen at third and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith at short. In the outfield were Ron Gant, current Jay Colby Rasmus and J.D. Drew. Jeff Brantley and Steve Kline were two of the pitchers.

Returning to the scene: Anthony Gose and Rasmus were playing in the same outfield at Fenway on Monday night for the first time since Sept. 21. That night Rasmus was running out to his position in centre in the bottom of the first when right fielder Gose threw a ball to him during their between-inning warm-ups. Millions of tosses have been made between outfielders without injury. This throw hit Rasmus below his left eye and while he was injured it could have been worse.

“I lost the ball in the lights,” said Rasmus recalled after the 4-2 win.

“I thought he was looking at me?” said Gose, who hit a two-run single. “We didn’t have any flashbacks to last year.

There were zero problems Tuesday night as Gose was in centre and Rasmus was the DH.

And none on Monday when Gose was in right and Rasmus was in centre.

“I threw my hands up like I was a cut off man,” said Rasmus, “and then he bounced it to me on one hop. We’d fist pumped after each time we threw one without anyone getting hit.”