Boston Red Sox starter John Lackey is enjoying the ride while it lasts.
Lackey’s career appeared to be in jeopardy following the 2011 season. The right-hander posted a career-worst 6.41 ERA and underwent Tommy John surgery that required a grueling rehab. Lackey has come back stronger than ever since the procedure, however, and the 35-year-old now remains focused on giving all his body has to offer.
“Trust me, if I have to get another surgery, I’m going home,” Lackey told MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato. “I’m 35, not 25 like those other guys.”
Tommy John surgery is becoming increasingly common across Major League Baseball. The road back isn’t any less challenging, though, which is something Lackey learned firsthand while rehabbing throughout his missed 2012 season.
“There were a lot of long days in Fort Myers doing rehab by yourself that weren’t a whole lot of fun,” Lackey told Mastrodonato. “You just don’t want to mess it up.”
Lackey finally returned to the mound April 6, 2013, in Toronto. He started off with a bang — striking out eight Blue Jays hitters in the early going — but a sharp pain shot through Lackey’s right arm on a pitch in the fifth inning. The veteran hurler walked off the mound unsure of what the future held.
“Scary,” Lackey said. “Especially when you do a year, year and a half worth of work and first time back out there…”
Fortunately for Lackey, the injury was located in his bicep, not the elbow he had repaired in November 2011. The pitcher returned to the hill April 28 and posted his best season in a Red Sox uniform. It was capped by an impressive postseason in which he won Boston’s World Series-clinching game.
“There was a lot of work to get to that point,” Lackey said. “It was more of a relief that all the crap that I went through, all the stuff that I did to get back to that point was worth it and paying off.”
Lackey, once considered a villain in Boston for his lack of production upon signing an $82.5 million contract, has become a stalwart in the Red Sox’s rotation. His focus is on going full-throttle rather than worrying about his surgically repaired elbow.
“I’m going to chuck it as hard and fast as I can until it breaks again,” Lackey said. “And then we’ll call it a day.”