FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey clearly knows how to get in Red Sox Nation’s good graces.
Lackey, who missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, returned to be one of the Red Sox’s most consistent starting pitchers in 2013. The veteran right-hander stamped his incredible bounce-back journey with a tip of the cap after 6 2/3 solid innings in the Red Sox’s World Series-clinching victory over the St. Louis Cardinals last October.
“That was pretty awesome, for sure,” Lackey said Thursday in Fort Myers while reflecting on last season’s triumph. “The whole night [of Game 6] was special. I could kind of feel it in the atmosphere even when I was warming up. It’s going to be tough to beat, for sure. That was pretty cool.”
Lackey’s strong 2013 regular-season performance, which was followed by an even stronger postseason effort, shocked many Red Sox fans. But the 35-year-old said Thursday that he had no doubts following his rehab that he someday would be an effective pitcher again.
“I busted my ass last offseason,” said Lackey, who went 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts in 2013. “I’ve thrown 200 innings, I don’t know six, seven, eight times. It’s something I expect out of myself. I put in the offseason work, put in the work in between starts to get to that number. I think that’s an important number, for sure.”
Lackey enters his second season since his surgery with a clean bill of health. The days of his career being in jeopardy are long gone.
“It’s been a crazy ride, I guess,” Lackey said of his time in Boston. “But honestly, I don’t look at a whole lot of stuff — negative or positive. I don’t read a whole bunch of stuff. I don’t listen to a lot of stuff. I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, and pretty comfortable with who I am in that clubhouse. Being a good teammate is something I take a lot of pride in and if I’m good with those guys in there, I feel pretty good about it.”
Lackey said Thursday that the Red Sox’s 2014 rotation has a chance to be as good as any rotation he’s ever been a part of during his 11-year career. If the unit meets those expectations, there’s a good chance Lackey will have something to do with it.