When Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell visited John Lackey in Dallas this week, he was very impressed with the state of the pitcher’s physical and mental readiness. That’s a good start for Lackey, who’s attempting to overcome huge obstacles in re-establishing his game as well as his image.
Lackey’s three-year run in Boston has been disappointing to say the least. After signing the former Los Angeles Angels’ ace to a five-year, $82.5 million contract following the 2010 season, the Red Sox expected Lackey to be a major part of their rotation. Instead, he’s been a major headache for the team both on and off the field.
Lackey’s tenure in Boston has been marred from the start with poor performances and odd behavior, including remarks to the media about how his “life sucks”. In his first two seasons with the club, he posted a 26-23 record in 61 starts. He was the frequent beneficiary of a potent Red Sox offense that overcame his 5.26 ERA on a regular basis to give him that winning record. Lackey’s strikeouts per nine innings also dropped nearly 40 percent with his move to the AL East. On top of all of that, he was at the center of the whole “chicken and beer” soap opera that coincided with the team’s 2011 September collapse.
Lackey missed all of the 2012 season after having Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, which was probably a blessing in disguise. Now, an entire year removed from the negative spotlight, Lackey is hoping to rebound in a big way.
Farrell, who was Lackey’s pitching coach back in 2010, had nothing but good things to say about his visit with the veteran. He noted Lackey’s arm strength, weight loss, and eagerness to get back on the mound. The 34-year-old right-hander threw a side session for Farrell and felt no lingering effects from the surgery.
If this “new and improved” Lackey stays on track, he could be an integral part of Boston’s 2013 rotation. Farrell fully expects his surgically repaired arm to hold up, and he believes that there’s no reason to think Lackey won’t be a major contributor this year.
Red Sox fans don’t want to admit it right now, but the team needs Lackey in order to be competitive in a very tough division. Winning heals all wounds. So if Lackey can chip in 12 to 14 victories from the fourth spot in the rotation this season, he will essentially kill two birds with one stone by also repairing his relationship with the fans at the same time.