Washington Nationals starter Jon Lester is leaving the team’s spring training facility in Florida to undergo surgery in New York to remove his thyroid gland, manager Dave Martinez said. Lester’s surgery is scheduled for Friday, a team spokesperson said.
Lester, signed this offseason to become the team’s fourth starter, shouldn’t miss much time. Martinez figured Lester would be out for “five to seven days” before returning to West Palm Beach, Florida.
“If everything goes well, he’ll be back, hopefully he can pitch again in about a week,” Martinez said Wednesday. “We want him to get it taken care of now, so it’s not an issue. So he’s going to get it taken care of.”
The southpaw joined Washington after six seasons with the Chicago Cubs, during which he earned two All-Star nods and won a World Series title in 2016. During that championship season, Lester finished second in National League Cy Young voting to the Nationals’ Max Scherzer.
Before Chicago, Lester was a fixture with the Red Sox for nine years, helping to bring two World Series titles to Boston. His career ERA is 3.60 and he has started at least 31 games for the last 12 full seasons. But he faltered during the shortened 2020 campaign, pitching to a 5.16 ERA with 1.328 WHIP.
Still, Washington figured the low-risk one-year, $5 million deal to bring him to Nationals Park was worth it. He could stabilize the back end of the rotation, continuing to eat innings.
“I project a veteran presence who is going to be very, very helpful, a great clubhouse guy,” pitching coach Jim Hickey said Tuesday. “But also someone who’s going to take the ball … every fifth day. But once again, we’re going to try to space these things out. He’s going to give you innings, he’s going to compete, he’s going to throw the ball over the plate. So a really, really good addition to this rotation.”
Lester was supposed to make his spring training debut Thursday, but the 37-year-old told coaches he was feeling tired. He underwent testing and spoke with a doctor Tuesday, who said the removal of the thyroid was the best way forward.
“He said he felt kind of tired,” Martinez said. “That’s the big issue. I feel like once they get this out, he’ll have a lot more energy throughout the day. I hope it works out for him. I really do. He’s a big part of what we do here and we love having him. He’s been working his tail off, day in and day out, and I know he’s going to help us.”
Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2006 and underwent chemotherapy. He returned for the 2007 season, going on to win a World Series. With that background, Martinez was asked if there was cause for concern for Lester.
But the manager said Lester is “upbeat” about the surgery, wanting to take care of the issue before the season. According to the Mayo Clinic, the need for a thyroidectomy could include cancer, the noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid or an overactive thyroid. If the whole thyroid is removed, a daily treatment of thyroid hormone is needed to replace the thyroid’s natural function.
Martinez said Lester was already “ramped up.” He had thrown a few bullpens, so the manager doesn’t expect a major setback in preparation or availability come the regular season.
“As soon as we can take care of that, all he wants to do is come back and help us win and get back on the mound,” Martinez said. “So we’re all for it. Hopefully, like I said, we get this thing taken care of, he comes back and he’s good to go.”