After watching him pitch through two mediocre outings this spring, the Boston Red Sox were absolutely thrilled with John Lackey’s performance against Team Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
Lackey was extremely sharp in the exhibition game, pitching three shutout innings while striking out two and walking none. He’s returning to the team after missing all of 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow.
The performance was notable considering the lineup that Puerto Rico sent up to face the 34-year-old former ace. Lackey went up against a batting order loaded with major leaguers, including Angel Pagan, Alex Rios, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molino, and former teammate Mike Aviles. With this in mind, manager John Farrell was especially impressed with the outing.
“He was very good,” Farrell said. “He used all four of his pitches tonight (and threw) strikes with each one of them. With each additional outing he’s gone through, there’s increased arm strength. I thought he was real crisp tonight.”
After two very ordinary starts so far in spring training, this game will give Red Sox fans an increased sense of optimism, and rightfully so. Lackey is no longer a top-of-the-rotation starter, but if he can stay healthy and perform well is his role as the number four pitcher, the Red Sox have a realistic chance to compete for the A.L. East title this year.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)