St. Louis Cardinals: Should we be concerned about Jon Lester?

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Jon Lester (34) reacts against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Lester (34) reacts against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals say there is no reason to be concerned about Jon Lester, but that may not be the case.

When Jon Lester watched the velocity and crispness of his pitches decline Saturday, he was met on the mound by manager Mike Shildt and trainer Adam Olsen. Lester, of course, stayed in the game and pitched five innings in a thrilling 8-5 St. Louis Cardinals victory over the Chicago Cubs.

But is there reason for concern?

The Cardinals are “optimistic” about Lester’s readiness and recovery, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). But that the injury came this late in the season, and that the team is unable to pinpoint (that we know of) exactly what is ailing Lester, leaves room for concern.

Adding to the concern is that when the Cardinals announced their rotation for the series against the Brewers, they listed TBD on Thursday instead of Lester. Perhaps the team is just being cautious and will see where 1) Lester is at then and 2) where they are in the postseason hunt as they close in on a wild card berth. Resting Lester, and ensuring he is as close to 100 percent in the event they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers inthe wild card round, could be part of their thinking.

Lester, however, admitted that he has pitched at far less than 100 percent before, saying: “I’ve been doing that since 2008. It’s a never-ending list of things that you have to maintain and figure out a way to make work.”

On Saturday, he made it work, and continued his string of strong outings since joining the Cardinals on July 30, as he has allowed three or less runs in seven consecutive starts and eight of his last nine. His ERA is 4.13, a number that is heavily inflated by two bad outings immediately following the trade, and does not reflect just how important he has been to the rotation.

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For now, the Cardinals hope that Lester is OK to pitch Thursday and going forward. But an injury this late in the season, especially that resulted in a velocity decrease for a 37-year-old pitcher, is an obvious reason for concern.

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