BOSTON (AP) -Jon Lester moved one step closer to the major leagues since being declared cancer-free when he threw a side session at Fenway Park on Sunday before the Boston Red Sox played the New York Yankees.
The left-hander is expected to make two more rehabilitation starts for Triple-A Pawtucket before Boston decides whether to put him on the big league roster. He already has made three starts at Class-A Greenville.
``Right now I feel strong, I feel healthy. I feel about as normal as I can be,'' Lester said. ``I think that first start is going to be tough. The first couple innings, I'm going to have to control myself a little bit. Hopefully, it will be all right.''
The 23-year-old Lester made his major league debut last June 10 and went 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA. In August, he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph system.
He underwent six chemotherapy treatments, the last in December, and doctors said there were no signs of cancer. He is scheduled to have a follow-up examination in Boston this week.
``It's a tough thing to come back from, let alone come back to play baseball,'' Lester said. ``I was just fortunate enough to beat it early and get back to having fun.''
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Lester looked strong during his pregame session.
``The biggest hurdle is probably in another two starts the shackles are going to come off from our end, and he can go compete,'' Francona said.
So far, the Red Sox have been conservative with the number of pitches Lester has thrown.
``That's bothering the heck out of him,'' Francona said. ``In a couple more starts, that won't be there anymore. And I think you'll see his personality and his pitching get better as he goes.''
Lester is scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches for Pawtucket in Rochester on Wednesday and then pitch the following Tuesday at home against Indianapolis.
He's eager to make more progress.
``They bring me in here to get a little taste of everything again, then send me back on the road,'' Lester said. ``I'm definitely ready to go and keep pitching and keep building.''
In three games and 13 innings with Greenville, Lester had a 2.08 ERA and no record. The only runs he allowed came in his last start when he gave up three runs and six hits, two of them homers, in five innings against Savannah.
``My last outing I didn't get the results that I wanted,'' Lester said, ``but I came out of it healthy and got my five innings, got my pitch count up and felt good afterwards.''
Lester reported to spring training early and said he felt fine. But the Red Sox limited him to facing minor league batters.

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