When he met with reporters in advance of this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game in West Palm Beach, FL, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez announced that left-hander Jon Lester left the team to travel to New York for a surgical procedure to remove his thyroid gland.
Lester had been scheduled to get on the mound in game action for his 2021 debut, so when he wasn’t listed by Martinez as one of the starters for the next few games, when the skipper was asked about the team’s plans, reporters wondered why Lester was left off the list.
“Lester, he’s going — he had a thyroid that he’s going to get removed, so he’s flying to New York, if everything goes well he’ll be back and hopefully he can pitch again in about a week. So, 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,” Martinez explained.
The issue was apparently something the team was aware of, and decided to act on to get it done with and give the pitcher peace of mind.
“We’ve known he’s had it. We were waiting for some other results to come through, talked to the doctor yesterday, and he wants to go ahead and have it removed, which we all agree was a good thing for him,” Martinez said.
“He’ll feel better with that gone, and then we’ll go from there, so hopefully after the surgery I’ll have more for you guys. But he feels like he should be ready to go if everything goes well in about a week.”
Pressed for more information, the fourth-year manager in D.C., who has history with Lester from the time both spent with the Chicago Cubs, said he’ll share more information when it is available. “I’ll definitely have more information. Like I said, I just know it’s a thyroid gland that needs to be removed.
“I don’t know the extent of what it is, but like I said, as soon as he goes through the surgery, I’ll let you guys know more.”
Will he really be able to return in a week?
“He feels like he’ll have the surgery and be back,” Martinez said.
“He wants to come back as soon as possible, but by listening to what they’re going to do in the procedure, probably anywhere between 5-7 days he’ll be back here.”
Back and pitching? Really?
“They said he could pitch,” Martinez said.
“But like I said, we want to make sure that when he comes back he’s totally healthy. So, as soon as, like I said, as soon as he has the little procedure done, we’ll stay with it day to day and see where we’re at.”
Lester, of course, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, when the now-37-year-old, was just 22, but he underwent chemotherapy and was able to return to action in 2007.
Did his medical history factor into his and the club’s decision-making with the thyroid issue?
“For me, I definitely believe and talking to him, that it’s something that for his mind’s sake that we needed to take care of it right away,” Martinez said. “I think he’s upbeat about it. I know he’s upbeat about it.
“So 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, so we’re all for it.
“So hopefully like I said, we get this thing taken care of, he comes back, and he’s good to go.”
As for how the thyroid issue was affecting Lester this spring?
“He said he felt kind of tired, so that’s the main issue,” Martinez said.
“They feel like once they get this out he’d have a lot more energy throughout the day. So I hope it works out for him, I really do. Like I said, 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.
“Hopefully we get this done, nip it in the bud, and move on and he’s back with us and in action soon.”
Lester will have to go through the whole COVID-19 intake process upon returning to the team, but his manager didn’t seem to think any of that would be a big issue for the lefty.
And as far as the veteran starter ramping up for the start of the 2021 regular season?
“He’s been pretty good,” Martinez said. “He’s been ramped up. He’s thrown, before he got here [he’d] thrown a few bullpens already, so hopefully this won’t affect him moving forward. We still have plans as of right now that he will start the season with us on his scheduled day. But we’ll have to see after this procedure is done how he’s feeling.”