“If all goes well, he’ll be back, hopefully he can hit again in about a week,” Martinez said in a video call to reporters on Wednesday. “We want him to take care of it now, so it’s not a problem.”

He continued, “We knew he had it. We have waited for more results. Talked to the doctor [Tuesday]and he wants to go ahead and have it removed which we all agree was a good thing for him. He’ll feel better when that’s gone. And then we go from there. “

Lester could return in five to seven days after surgery, Martinez said based on his conversations with the team’s medical staff. Lester will have to repeat the mandatory coronavirus uptake screening upon his return to West Palm Beach. The 37-year-old signed a $ 5 million one-year deal with the Nationals in January. Since 2008 he has made at least 31 starts in every full season. Its durability and health determine its strengths.

But his major league career began with a battle against anaplastic large cell lymphoma as a rookie with the Boston Red Sox. The cancer was diagnosed in September 2006, and after off-season chemotherapy, Lester was in remission through December. When Martinez was asked Wednesday whether Lester’s medical history made this thyroid problem more worrisome, he did not go into the details. Lester, who had spent the past six years with the Chicago Cubs, didn’t speak to reporters before moving to New York.

“I definitely believe in speaking to him that it is something we need to take care of right now,” said Martinez. “He’s optimistic about it. I know he’s optimistic. As soon as we can take care of it all he wants to do is come back and help us win and get back on the hill. So we’re all for it. “

Cubs manager Davis Ross told reporters in Arizona, “From what I hear, it’s not very serious. I don’t think he’ll be out very long. … We will say a prayer for him. I don’t think he’s worried, that’s why I’m not worried. “

Lester was originally scheduled to make his spring debut against the New York Mets on Thursday. When he signed that winter, he was instantly ranked fourth in the Nationals after a World Series win and two All-Star appearances in Chicago. Washington has targeted him freehand because he is reliable.

Each year he adheres to a schedule of every fifth day that the teams crave. And in most starts, he’s good for at least five innings. Lester dived with a 5.16 ERA in 61 innings in 2020. Later this week, the Nationals bet that he would improve those numbers while keeping the workload constant.

“I’m projecting a veteran presence that will be very, very helpful, a great clubhouse guy,” said new pitching coach Jim Hickey, who briefly clashed with Lester in Chicago. “But also someone who takes the ball. . . I’ll say the words: every fifth day. . . . He’ll give you innings. He will compete. He’s going to throw the ball over the plate. “

The top priority is Lester’s short and long term health. Far below, however, is what that means for Washington’s rotation to start the season. Lester was obliged to stand behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. After that, the club looks again at Joe Ross, Erick Fedde and Austin Voth to round out the staff.

Ross is the alleged front runner. One of the odd men is likely to join the bullpen as a longtime helper. But Lester’s absence could put Fedde or Voth in the pecking order. Like all teams, the Nationals control how to prepare pitchers after such an odd year. They rose last spring, were shut down for four months, ramped up again in July – this time on a compressed schedule – and then had to recover from about a third of their usual innings.

“I actually threw a few more [bullpen sessions] than I’ve done in the past, ”Lester told reporters on Jan. 27, just a week after landing with the Nationals. “I usually wait until the week before spring training to get up the hill. But there are some things that I showed up last year that I had to work on that I had to fix, so I got there a little earlier. I am pleased. I feel physically in a good place. “

Even before Lester left camp, Martinez had flown in a six-man rotation in April. A nine-man bullpen is also on the table. On Tuesday, in a video call with reporters, Hickey predicted that the Nationals would need eight starters to account for missed starts from the top 5.

These are the ripple effects of MLB’s first pandemic season. In addition to Ross, Fedde and Voth, the Nationals have rotation depth in Rogelio Armenteros and Ben Braymer. Seth Romero, another starter on the 40-man roster, has only three major league games out of the bullpen. It thins out pretty quickly.

Martinez believes Lester wouldn’t be completely reset in the coming weeks. But of course that depends on how the surgery and next steps go.

“He’s been scraping his cock every day and I know he’s going to help us,” Martinez said. “Hopefully we can do this, nip it in the bud and move on, and he’ll be back with us and in action soon.”

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