OAKLAND –- Jon Lester helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, and he said Friday that he looks forward to tackling the same goal in Oakland.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure,” the left-hander said in his introductory A’s press conference. “These guys have been to the playoffs before. It’s not gonna be anything new for a lot of these guys here. Hopefully with adding us, we can just add a little more experience, going deeper (in the postseason). I think these guys expect to go to the playoffs every year now. It’s a good atmosphere to have.”
Lester was seated next to outfielder Jonny Gomes, also acquired from Boston in the same Thursday deal as Lester in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
A three-time All-Star who has won 15-plus games five teams in his career, Lester represents Oakland’s biggest trade-deadline acquisition in several years, an ace added to an already formidable starting rotation who is viewed as the kind of player that has many viewing this as a World Series-or-bust season for the A’s.
He entered the A’s clubhouse along with Gomes, who played with Oakland in 2012, around 3 p.m. Friday, shaking hands as someone jokingly played the “Marine Corps Marching Band” song on the clubhouse stereo. Indeed, the arrival of Lester, and the return of Gomes, leant a parade-like buzz to pregame activities at the Coliseum.
“He wants the ball in big games, he’s used to that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “For a team with some younger guys in the rotation, he’s the type of guy you run out there and you’re not worried about pitch counts. You just run him out there and let him do his thing and makes everyone better as far as the rotation goes.”
And what of Gomes? The Petaluma native has the reputation of being a terrific clubhouse leader. In 2012, Gomes was part of an A’s team that was the classic underdog, surprising everybody by winning the A.L. West title on the final day of the regular season.
Things have changed now. The A’s are coming off back-to-back division titles. They currently own the majors’ best record, and this is viewed as the season that they’re best-equipped to make a deep postseason run.
Oakalnd hasn’t appeared in a World Series since 1990.
“I was fortunate enough to go finish the deal (in Boston) and have that lifelong goal of getting that World Series ring,” Gomes said. “I thought I was hungry to get that World Series ring. And now that I have it, I’m starving for it. … One hundred and sixty-two (games) is just an appetizer for what this game is all about.”
Perhaps an added benefit of Gomes’ presence will be the positive effect he can have on right fielder Josh Reddick. The two were close buddies in 2012 -– their lockers right next to each other. This season, Reddick has had prime locker real estate on the end of a row in the A’s clubhouse, but he gave up his spot to accommodate Gomes.
Reddick moved one spot to the left.
“It means a lot to have him back here in the locker room,” Reddick said. “It’s gonna be a huge pick-up for a lot of guys. For me, it brings back another guy who’s been here before and keeps things going for me. Hopefully it’s something that brings more of the 2012 player back, even though that all (has to be) my doing. But you never know what kind of good vibes he can bring to you.”
Reddick hit a career-high 32 home runs with 85 RBI in 2012, but his numbers slumped to 12 and 56 in those categories last season. He’s missed time this season with two D.L. stints but lately has been on a roll at the plate.
“He taught me how to approach the game everyday,” Reddick said of Gomes. “I became an everyday player for the first time that year, and he just taught me how to prepare for a baseball game, how to be myself. He came over here and I saw how open he was, and it gave me more confidence to open up in a big league clubhouse. Little things that kind of made me a little bit better person."