FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey has passed another test in his comeback from elbow surgery, pitching into the sixth inning against Tampa Bay minor leaguers.
Lackey, who missed last season following Tommy John surgery, gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings yesterday against players from Triple-A Durham. He walked four and struck out seven.
While the Red Sox enjoyed their final scheduled off day in spring training, Lackey faced 26 batters and threw 101 pitches, 54 for strikes.
When the Red Sox break camp this weekend to head to New York for Monday’s season opener, Lackey will stay behind and have one more outing Sunday in an intrasquad game before rejoining the team.
“I’ve got one more start to go, but it’s gone pretty good. Pretty happy about where my stuff is,” Lackey said. “I was throwing off-speed pitches for strikes, so I felt good about that. I tried to throw a lot of fastballs the last couple of innings and tried to stretch it out a little bit. It’s gone pretty well.”
Even though Lackey doesn’t want to jinx himself, he has watched video of games involving the hitters who will play for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. That’s the team he will face on April 6 at Rogers Centre in his first start in more than a year after Tommy John surgery.
That will be a big moment for Lackey, who has gone through a grueling rehab from the surgery and has made a seamless transition to pitching post-surgery. He feels better than he has in years, but he doesn’t want to say it too loudly. He now sees hope for a career that was very much in question after he signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Red Sox two years ago.
“I felt good,” Lackey said. “Got to the number of pitches I wanted to get up to. Got up six times. Got what I needed accomplished and keep moving forward. I was trying to get my work in honestly. Being on the back field on an off day, you know, motivation was a little bit of an issue I guess.”