BOSTON — It really was water under the bridge.
Joe Maddon had some pointed comments for John Lackey earlier this season. Lackey hit Rays outfielder Matt Joyce in the back with a pitch on June 10, and Maddon said that Lackey had acted like a “bad teammate.” However, Maddon also said after that game — which saw the benches clear — that Lackey had always been a good teammate when the two shared a clubhouse in Anaheim, and that he hoped the two would remain friends.
The friendship still exits. And for good reason.
“Well, I’ve known Lack for a long time. John Lackey, we were teammates back with the Angels, and he helped pay for my daughter’s wedding in 2002. So I was always grateful to John,” Maddon said Friday. “Great teammate, great competitor. He and I used to go out for beers after the games.”
Maddon spent 31 years in the Angels organization before eventually becoming the Rays manager prior to the 2006 season. Lackey, of course, pitched for the Angels for eight seasons before signing with the Red Sox before the 2010 campaign. Now, the two are squaring off with a trip to the 2013 ALCS on the line, and the mutual respect remains very high.
“The biggest difference I see is obviously he was hurt [before this season]. I knew something was wrong when he wasn’t pitching well. He was definitely better than that,” Maddon said Friday of Lackey’s renaissance year. “Now you’re seeing him at full force, where he’s well, because he’s got all the weapons, plus the makeup to be as good as you’re seeing right now. So it does not surprise me in the least that he’s well, pitching this good.”
Lackey will take the ball in Game 2 as the Red Sox look to build a 2-0 series lead over the Rays. The right-hander said Friday that he’s fired up to finally get back to the postseason, and that he doesn’t plan to suppress his emotion when he finally takes the mound. Unfiltered passion has always been a part of Lackey — dating back to his Angels days — and neither he nor Maddon seem to care too much about any comments that were said during the heat of battle earlier this season.
“[Maddon] was great over there [with the Angels],” Lackey said Friday. “He was a guy as a bench coach that you could kind of go to and get a feel what [Angels manager Mike Scioscia] was thinking, kind of a go‑between the players and Sosh.”
The Red Sox and Rays will continue to scratch and claw for the opportunity to advance this postseason. But perhaps Lackey and Maddon can catch up for a couple of cold ones after the dust finally settles.
Just like old times.