KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jon Lester knows he has some work to do before he makes his first opening day start.
Lester was outpitched by Tommy Hanson in the Boston Red Sox’s 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
“It’s a big honor,” Lester said of the April 1 assignment. “But it’s still a work in progress down here.”
Lester wasn’t nearly as good as he had been in his first two Grapefruit League starts, when he allowed no runs and struck out six in six innings. He gave up eight hits and three runs in 4 2-3 innings Wednesday.
He tired in the fifth inning and gave up two runs after retiring 10 of 11 following three straight hits to start the game. The left-hander struck out four and walked two.
“The first inning was a little rough. I left some balls up,” Lester said. “I made the adjustment the second through fourth innings. Then it got away from me a little in the fifth.”
“One more start and I’ll be ready to go,” Lester said.
Boston manager Terry Francona informed Lester that he had the opening day job in a text months ago. He was just told to keep it to himself until the manager finally went public Wednesday.
“It was short and sweet,” Lester said of the text. “I think I was in a deer stand.”
The 27-year-old Lester had a 19-9 record with a 3.25 ERA and 225 strikeouts in 208 innings last year.
“I think he deserves it,” Francona said. “I think he kinda has that station in the game now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1.”
Hanson continued to build on his impressive spring despite giving up a quick home run.
Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro hit the second pitch of the game over the left-field fence, but the only other base runner in Hanson’s five innings came on a second-inning single by Ryan Kalish.
Hanson struck out five, including the last three batters he faced to end a stretch of 10 straight outs. He retired 15 of 16 batters.
“It felt good,” Hanson said. “It was definitely one of my better outings.”
Hanson, who lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 1.29, wasn’t even that upset by the pitch that Scutaro hit for his home run.
“I felt it was a good pitch,” Hanson said. “I wanted to throw a fastball low and inside that’s what I did. He just hit it.”
Hanson, who will start the Braves’ second game of the season at Washington, was especially pleased with his breaking pitches.
“My curveball was really sharp,” he said.
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, coming back from reconstructive knee surgery, was 2 for 3 and drove in the first-inning run. He is batting .375.
Boston scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to tie it, but the Braves scored the deciding run on a bunt in the bottom of the inning.
NOTES: Derek Lowe will made this third straight opening day start for the Braves on March 31 at Washington, manager Fredi Gonzalez announced after the game. Tim Hudson will start the home opener against Philadelphia on April 8. Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis made two diving stops and Scutaro made a nice play at shortstop going to his left. Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, bothered by a sore back, didn’t play for fifth straight day. His return remains day to day. John Lackey is scheduled to start for the Red Sox against the New York Mets on Thursday. Hudson is slated to pitch for the Braves on Thursday against a Washington split-squad.