Commentary

Things feel perfect for Lackey

He looks strong in first start for Sox and says transition's been smooth

Updated: March 7, 2010, 4:48 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Lackey is finally in the books as a member of the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation.

Lackey, a former Angel, made his spring debut on Saturday afternoon against the Twins at City of Palms Park and worked two perfect innings (20 pitches, 12 strikes) with one strikeout. The right-hander was throwing free and easy.

"He was good," said Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale. "It was his first outing this spring and it was a solid two innings. He commanded the baseball and kept it down in the zone. He mixed in his secondary pitch. I thought he was good."

The new five-year, $82.5 million man was signed by the Red Sox this offseason to bolster an already strong rotation that includes Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Lackey entered camp healthy, which is different from the past two years when he was with the Angels and dealt with shoulder and elbow issues.

"I'm just taking it a day at a time," he said after his start Saturday. "I don't feel 100 percent or anything, yet. It's still early."

[+] EnlargeLackey
AP Photo/Nati HarnikJohn Lackey says he knows that expectations of him are high in Boston, and he's OK with that.

When asked if he's been satisfied with his health this spring, Lackey was quite positive.

"For sure, it's something I have taken into account. I've been working out and trying to strengthen my arm a lot more," he said. "I'm being a little more careful with my throwing program."

During his brief outing on Saturday, Lackey threw mostly fastballs (two- and four-seam) and curveballs. He stayed away from his slider and changeup.

The Twins' Delmon Young was the last batter Lackey faced in his debut. He had a 3-1 count on Young when Lackey decided to reach back for a little extra zip.

"He fouled it off, so that means I had a little life on my fastball," Lackey said.

"Felt pretty good. It's a good place to start from," he added. "It's always different when you have to sit down and get back up for that second inning. It's a little harder to get loose that second inning, as opposed to the first. But overall, I felt pretty good and I'll keep moving forward."

He said his transition from the Angels into the Red Sox clubhouse has been a smooth one.

"I would say it's been pretty easy," he said. "It's been easier than I thought it was going to be. The guys have been great and they're a great group of guys. It's been easy to fit in with. I thought it was going to be more difficult, but it hasn't been."

Even though it was the first time he's worn a Red Sox uniform in a game, Lackey has felt comfortable with his new teammates from the first day he arrived in camp.

"I've been into it for a while now," he said. "Once you get into a game and see different guys behind you, and you're throwing to different people, it's definitely different. I'm glad I got to do it here for the first time. It was fun."

Beckett and Lackey have a lot in common. Not only are they both from Texas, both enjoyed success early in their careers. As a rookie, Lackey helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.42 ERA in five postseason appearances (three starts).

Beckett was 23 when he helped the Marlins to a World Series victory in 2003, while earning the MVP of the Fall Classic. The two will no doubt feed off each other and strive to be very successful.

"I can definitely see that happening," Lackey said. "I'll be the first one on the top step, pulling for them to do great. When it becomes your turn after those guys, you don't want to let them down and you want to keep the line going."

Because the Red Sox have one of the best rotations in the game, expectations are high in Boston. Lackey wouldn't expect anything less.

"I think the expectations for everyone are high," he said. "This organization expects to win, we expect to win as players. My expectations are to help out with that."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona recently had a meeting with a league official about pace of the game for 2010. Francona, and most notably closer Jonathan Papelbon, were fined a few times last season for slowing the game down.

When Lackey's on the mound for the Red Sox this season, Francona's money will be safe because Lackey likes to work fast and tries to control the pace of the game.

Lackey spent his entire career with the Angels, but he's really looking forward to this experience with the Red Sox.

"It's been fun competing against them, and it's going to be even more fun competing with them," Lackey said.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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