Red Sox manager John Farrell has been made numerous trips across the country in recent weeks to visit with players as he prepares to head to Fort Myers, Fla., for the start of spring training. Of the visits he’s made, one stood out.
Farrell was with the Red Sox when they signed John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal after the 2009 season. In 2010, when Farrell was the Sox pitching coach, he got a close view into the fact that the pitcher who was making his transition to Boston was unable to perform at the same consistently excellent level he’d achieved with the Angels to that point in his career. Then, from the perspective of the Blue Jays dugout in 2011, he again saw a pitcher unlike the one that the team thought it was acquiring via free agency.
Ultimately, it turned out that Lackey required Tommy John surgery shortly after the end of a 2011 season that proved a year-long physical struggle for the pitcher. Lackey went 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts and 160 painful innings that season. Now, after missing all of 2012, Lackey is poised to return to the rotation starting in spring training. And based upon his visit with the pitcher in Dallas last week, Farrell expects that the veteran is ready to make an impact that exceeds what he’s done to date in Boston.
“I think he has a chance to have as big an impact on our club as anyone on our roster,” Farrell said on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show on Thursday night. (To listen to the complete interview, click here.) “He looks great. I think when people see him for the first time, they’ll probably be surprised about how he reshaped his body. He probably dropped about 12 to 15 pounds. I had a chance to watch him throw. His arm was loose. He was upbeat, looking forward to putting Tommy John and some of those recent experiences behind him.”
In his two years with the Sox, Lackey went 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA, striking out 6.3 per nine innings and walking 3.1 per nine. By contrast, he struck out 7.2 and walked 2.6 per nine innings with the Angels, going 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. Farrell is hopeful that the pitcher’s long rehab process will now yield a performer who more closely represents his Angels performance than what he did in his first two years in Boston.
“I think we have yet to see the John Lackey we signed here,” said Farrell. “To see what he’s done reshaping his body, the way he’s talked with eagerness to get back on the mound … I really think that, there’s a different side of John Lackey than what has been seen. I’m not making any excuses for anything that’s happened in the past, but the best thing John can do is go out and pitch as he’s capable. Now that he’s healthy, he’s had his arm repaired and the elbow fixed, he has a chance to do just that.”
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