Fans recognize Lester amid uncertainty

Faithful at Fenway Park chant for left-hander in ninth inning of Wednesday's loss

Fans recognize Lester amid uncertainty

BOSTON -- During the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, the Fenway faithful made their feelings clear to lefty ace Jon Lester, who has been in the midst of trade rumors all week as today's non-waiver Deadline closes in.

"Jonny Lester," the crowd chanted over and over.

A few minutes later it was, "We want Lester."

"We were well aware of it, and heard it," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We wouldn't expect anything less. This is a fan base that is very much in tune with what we're doing, good and bad, and I think it's a clear sign of support for Jon."

By the end of a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays, Lester was still the property of the Red Sox, the only professional franchise he's ever played for.

Lester, who has expressed gratitude to Red Sox fans on Twitter multiple times this week, did not acknowledge the crowd during the chants as it was unclear if he was in the dugout during the ninth inning.

"He was here for the full nine innings," Farrell said. "There's no new news or any progression of any sort to announce."

It was an odd feeling in the clubhouse after the game, as the players didn't know if Lester would still be their teammate by the time Boston resumes action against the Yankees on Friday.

"I don't know," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "We'll see. We'll see what happens. "Nobody knows. I've got his phone number."

With so much limbo surrounding Lester, all the Red Sox could say with certainty was that the lefty will make his next start on Sunday night against the Yankees if he doesn't get traded.

Originally, Lester was to start Wednesday. But Farrell felt that with all the uncertainty, it made sense to let the Deadline pass before the lefty got back into a pre-start routine.

"It's a unique set of circumstances," Farrell said. "He's an extremely talented pitcher. As I mentioned yesterday, with all the uncertainty, it's in the best interests of everyone involved that we push him back."

While the Red Sox continued to speak with several teams -- the Dodgers, Athletics, Cardinals, Pirates, Orioles and Brewers have all surfaced as prospective landing spots -- there were no suitcases for Lester to pack just yet.

The Cardinals got Justin Masterson from the Indians on Wednesday, perhaps lessening the chances they could fit Lester on their roster. And the Orioles learned that No. 2 prospect Hunter Harvey is sidelined for the rest of the season with elbow woes, lessening the chances they could part with an impact player from the farm system in a blockbuster trade.

Though the rumor mill has been in full force all week, the Red Sox are perfectly willing to let the situation go right down to the Deadline if they had to.

Some of the club's most recent trades over the last decade have been buzzer-beaters, including the one that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs 10 years ago, the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay blockbuster in 2008 and the Victor Martinez trade with the Indians in '09.

If the Red Sox are to move Lester, they feel they should receive at least one elite prospect in return.

Though Lester is a free agent at the end of the season, he is the type of pitcher that could put a contender over the top, much like he did for the Red Sox last October.

Farrell has long had a strong relationship with Lester, dating back to when he became his pitching coach in '07.

He has had a front-row seat for the lefty's evolution from overcoming cancer to becoming one of the best starting pitchers in the game.

"You see a young guy come up," Farrell said. "You see him mature. You see him accomplish certain challenges fundamentally and see them play out on the field, and then you share with him all the successes that he has brought to not only this team and this organization, but certainly himself. It runs deeper particularly because of being his pitching coach for a number of years and then being in this position. There's a unique set of circumstances here.

"I couldn't be more proud of watching the way he's matured and the talent that he is. To know Farrah and their two sons and to see how they've grown as a family, how he's grown as a man, it's been really awesome to witness."

Farrell could only wonder if Wednesday would be his last day sharing a clubhouse with Lester. The Red Sox are off today before returning to action against the Yankees on Friday night.

If Lester doesn't get traded, he will throw a bullpen session on Friday in anticipation for a start against the Yankees on Sunday night at Fenway.

John Lackey, who is starting Friday night, has also been in plenty of trade rumors in recent days. Farrell said that Lackey remains on schedule to pitch Friday and that the team has not yet lined up a backup pitcher like they did with Brandon Workman on Wednesday.

Should the Red Sox trade Lester, there's at least a chance he could return to the club as a free agent in the offseason.

During his time with the Red Sox, Lester has overcome cancer, thrown a no-hitter and been part of two World Series championship teams.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.