Lackey continues to build momentum

March, 27, 2010
SARASOTA, Fla. -- There was a playful exchange following the Red Sox exhibition game Saturday that seemed to reflect how well pitcher John Lackey has fit in with the club.

Lackey was speaking with reporters in the visiting clubhouse. When asked about Dustin Pedroia, he joked that the second baseman is louder than he had expected.

That caught the attention of Pedroia, who was nearby. Pedroia playfully fired back that Lackey signed a “league minimum” five-year contract so he didn’t have to face him.

Lackey, who of course signed a lucrative five-year deal worth $82.5 million this offseason, ended up with the last laugh.

“I’m scared of singles to right?” he cracked.

As one reporter jotted down the exchange, Lackey chuckled, saying that Pedroia shouldn’t get credit for a line he’d been using for two weeks.

All joking aside, Lackey’s first spring training with the Red Sox couldn’t have gone much better. Working with his trademark quick pace Saturday against the Orioles, he went six innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs. In 75 pitches, he struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.

“We’re really happy,” manager Terry Francona said. “He throws it over the plate. He continues to pound the zone. He stays down, and he’s efficient. ... I think he's come through with flying colors. He looks really good."

Lackey, who threw in the bullpen afterward to up his pitch count to 90 on the day, has pitched 15 innings this spring, allowing 11 hits and posting a 1.20 ERA.

Lackey said he worked his cutter into his repertoire Saturday, which he hadn’t previously used in spring training. He added that one of the things he was most encouraged about was his 1-2-3 sixth inning, which came after a long top half of the inning and reflects how he’s built up stamina.

Based on his recent history of injuries early in spring training, Lackey acknowledged that he altered his routine once joining the Red Sox.

“I probably toned it back a little early, just to kind of make it through spring training. I wanted to get to the ones that counted, for sure,” he said. “I probably didn’t throw quite as much and was probably a little smarter about things in between starts and bullpen sessions.”

As for his thoughts on the starting rotation, Lackey said that he appreciated Francona previously telling him that he’d be third to open the season behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

“He didn’t have to do that, but he kind of knew I was used to going a little earlier,” Lackey said. “It’s kind of what I expected. It wasn’t a surprise. I told him, if I were to have stayed [with the Angels] and one of those guys came up there, I kind of would have expected to still go first. This is their team. They’ve done a lot of things for this organization and for Tito. For him to show that kind of loyalty to them is the right to do, I think.”

Mike Reiss

ESPN Staff Writer



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