Nationals left-hander Jon Lester will undergo surgery to have his thyroid gland removed on Friday, manager Dave Martinez announced today (link via Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post). Assuming all goes well, the surgery is only expected to keep him out of action for roughly a week’s time, the manager added.
The 37-year-old Lester has been dealing with fatigue early in camp. After some consultations with medical experts and a slate of tests, he opted to have the surgery this week with the hope that it’ll prevent further symptoms during the 2021 season. He’s traveling to New York today.
Lester signed a one-year, $5MM deal with the Nationals over the winter, setting the stage for him to slide into the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. The contract reunites him with Martinez, who was his bench coach in Chicago from 2015-17, and with fellow free-agent signee Kyle Schwarber.
Back in 2006, during his rookie year with the Red Sox, Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma and was away for nearly a year while undergoing chemotherapy. Since going into remission and returning to the mound, he’s been among the game’s most durable starters. The five-time All-Star made at least 31 starts per season over a 12-year period from 2008-19, averaging 199 innings per season. Along the way, he also kicked in 144 2/3 innings of 2.55 ERA ball in the postseason and took home NLCS MVP honors in 2016. During last year’s shortened season, he started a dozen games.
While Lester isn’t the ace he was at his peak, his status as one of the game’s most reliable sources of innings makes him plenty appealing for a Nationals club that needed a steady presence behind an established top three. Lester struggled to a 5.16 ERA last summer, but he also posted his lowest walk percentage and highest ground-ball rate since 2015. A clearer schedule for the lefty will be known after the procedure, but the early projection that he could be back to work after just a week obviously bodes well for both Lester and the Nats.