Pitcher Jon Lester will make his anticipated return to the Boston Red Sox lineup Monday night, 11 months after his 2006 rookie season was cut short because of a bout with cancer.
Lester, 23, is scheduled to take Julian Tavarez's spot when the Red Sox visit the Cleveland Indians.
The game marks the first time Lester will take the mound for Boston since a victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 23. The Red Sox announced nine days later that Lester had a treatable form of lymphoma.
"I don't think it really has sunken in yet, and I don't think it will sink in until [Monday] when I get on the mound," Lester said Sunday.
Lester was 7-2 for the Red Sox last season with a 4.76 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings of work.
"It's definitely a lot more gratifying than last year, just for the simple fact of the road that I've been on coming back from last year," Lester said.
The Tacoma, Wash., native underwent treatment for cancer during the off-season and joined the Red Sox in spring training, but started the season on the disabled list. After activating Lester on June 11, Boston decided to option him to the minors.
"It's been hard, but you have to sit back and see that they have your best interest involved," Lester said. "It's been hard getting treated like you're in a glass bottle, so it'd be nice to finally break through and get to pitch again."
Lester posted a 4-5 record with a 3.61 ERA for class A Greenville of the South-Atlantic League and Pawtucket, earning victories in three of his last four decisions. Lester was 4-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 14 starts with the PawSox and had a 2.08 ERA in three startswith Greenville.
"I can't sit here and tell you there won't be some emotion involved," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I think his folks are going to be there, which I'm sure for them will be extra special."
Francona said the decision to start Lester was strictly based on his baseball ability and wasn't influenced by emotion.
"We didn't let it be [a factor], or he would have been here three months ago," Francona said. "I wouldn't apologize to be crazy about a kid like Lester — I'd be crazy not to. But I wouldn't ever let that get in the way of making decisions."
Francona said Lester, who allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings against Ottawa on Wednesday, won't be limited by a pitch count against the Indians.