BOSTON — Most pitchers look to keep their emotions in check while on the mound. John Lackey is not most pitchers.
Lackey, who is often animated while toeing the rubber, said Friday that he’ll continue to be the same pitcher he’s always been when he takes the mound for Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday. The veteran has no plans to chill out with the stakes raised.
“No, I’m going to be emotional,” Lackey said “I’m going to be fired up. It’s part of the way it is. That’s part of the reason I’m still pitching.”
Hard work is another reason why Lackey is still going strong at age 34. It’s the biggest reason why he was able to overcome a major rough patch in his career that ultimately led to him having Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2012.
“With the surgery and that kind of stuff, coming back from that, it was a lot of work this offseason,” Lackey said Friday. “But I was able to throw quite a few innings this year, coming off the surgery, so I feel pretty good about it overall.”
Lackey has enjoyed a renaissance in 2013. He finished the regular season 10-13, but his sub-.500 record in no way indicates how solid he was for the Red Sox. Lackey was one of the team’s more reliable starters all season, and his success enabled Boston to endure the loss of Clay Buchholz for a three-month stretch.
“Coming back from Tommy John, that rehab is pretty straight forward, but the commitment that he made to reshape his body, to put himself where he is physically, to me that’s correlated to the consistency that he’s been in our rotation,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “The reshaping of the body has allowed him to command the baseball, just because he’s been able to repeat his delivery more consistently. And he’s been probably one of our top two starters in terms of consistency, start to finish.”
Lackey, who posted a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts this season, will face David Price in Game 2 of the ALDS. It’s a testament to how confident the Red Sox are in Lackey’s ability, but the decision also boiled down to Lackey’s home/road splits. Lackey went 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 13 home starts, and 4-10 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 16 starts away from Fenway Park. It’s something that even the right-hander can’t explain.
“I’m not really sure, honestly,” Lackey said “I don’t know what that is, because really this place probably isn’t one of best places to pitch. It should be the other way around.
“We’ve got a great fan base, and it’s a fun place, good atmosphere, so who knows? If I knew, I’d pitch better on the road, I guess.”
Lackey likely won’t have to worry about pitching on the road in the Red Sox’ series against the Rays. He will, however, have to worry about facing a Tampa Bay lineup that can be sneaky dangerous.
The Rays’ offense, meanwhile, can rest assured that they’ll face a pitcher in Game 2 who isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Lackey’s done it for 11 seasons. Why stop now?