Lackey pitches in first outing since Tommy John surgery
The Sox kicked off their Spring Training schedule on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, and while these games generally mean very little, there was one big headline surrounding the game: the return of John Lackey.
Lackey last pitched in a game in 2011 before going on the DL due to Tommy John surgery. He worked hard to rehab his elbow and get back in shape. Saturday was his first chance to pitch in 2013. It certainly has been a long journey for the big righthander, but he worked hard and deserves to enjoy his success on the mound.
To say he had a good outing would not be entirely truthful, yet Lackey managed to get through his allotted inning and looked comfortable, which is the important thing for him before the season begins. Lackey faced six batters in his one inning, throwing 20 pitches — 10 of them for strikes. He initially appeared to have a case of the nerves as he struggled to find the strike zone in the early going. Lackey soon settled into a groove and fired in pitch after pitch, working both sides of the plate.
Lackey walked one batter, hit another, but managed to rack up one strikeout and two fly outs. His velocity topped off around 88-90 mph, so there is still a ways to go in terms of building up his velocity (it should be in the low-to-mid 90s), but it is still early and there is plenty of time for him to find his old groove. Lackey threw straight fastballs which is typical for an early start in Spring Training, and he said he hopes to work on implementing his breaking pitches once he finds his command.
Lackey offered a quick assessment of his outing, and despite the rough going early on, he seems optimistic about this year.
“I was glad to be back out there,” Lackey said. “I missed playing baseball. No pain in elbow. It’s been a few years since that. Good step forward.”
If the Sox want to succeed this year, they will need Lackey to be at his best. GM Ben Cherington gambled by not bringing in a big name pitcher in hopes that Lackey would return to form. As Spring Training unfolds we’ll get an indication of whether that gamble pays off for Cherington.
Manager John Farrell knows full well what Lackey will face in the coming months as he tries to prove his worth to the Fenway faithful, but he said he has high hopes for the pitcher.
“What stands out with John is the way he’s reshaped himself and the confidence that’s given him and his own off-season preparation and how he views himself, but he’s going into this year with a much more positive outlook,” Farrell said.
Only time will tell if Lackey has what it takes to compete in 2013, but if today is any indicator of what the season will look like, he seems to be off to a pretty good start.