John Lackey Quietly Making Strong Statement in Spring Training


John Lackey Quietly Making Strong Statement in Spring Training SARASOTA, Fla. — For all the noise the Red Sox made by signing John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5-million contract, his spring has been about as quiet as possible.

That's just fine by him.

After back-to-back springs which were marred by injury and caused him to miss the start of the regular season, Lackey has been dominant in his first March for the Red Sox. In Saturday's 6-1 loss to Baltimore, he allowed his first two runs all spring in six innings of work and stretched his string of frames without a walk to 15.

His efficiency has caused teammates and coaches to gush about the big righty, who has worked quick, thrown strikes and gotten his defense off the field.

"He's not messing around," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's got dinner reservations to get to. If it was the other way around, those are the days when your legs are heavy and you?re like 'Come on, throw the ball.' He's been awesome. Taking that ball, being professional. He's been through it. He knows. This isn't his first rodeo."

No, Lackey's been through a few before and has learned some lessons. With input from the Red Sox staff, he has slightly reduced his work between outings this month in order to get through Grapefruit League play with none of the issues he had in the past. His debut in 2008 did not come until May 14 and he did not begin last year until May 16.

On March 27 of this year, he looked as if he could have gone nine.

"I definitely toned it back a little early on in spring training just to make it through," he said. "I wanted to get to the ones that counted for sure."

Among those which count is game No. 3 of the season, Lackey's season debut against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. ("Might as well jump right in, see what happens," he said). If Lackey stays on this path, expect the Bronx Bombers to be legging out a lot of weak grounders.

In his four appearances this spring, Lackey has recorded 28 outs with ground balls compared to nine in the air. Heavy stuff low in the zone with a capable infield behind him — that's how you earn a 1.20 ERA.

"He gets it and throws it and throws it over the plate," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We're really happy. ? I think he's come through [spring training] with flying colors. He looks really good. You can tell when a guy is scuffling. He's slowing down, he?s thinking about things. [Lackey's] getting it and throwing it over the plate and he's got movement. He looks really good."

While Lackey discussed his latest outing in the visiting clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium, a burrito-eating Pedroia yelled out that Lackey would have signed for the league minimum if it meant not having to face the Red Sox second baseman.

While the comment was in jest, the moment — which included a hearty laugh from Lackey — touched on another reason why the one-time Angel has had such a smooth, quiet time in Florida this time around.

"The day doesn't need to be saved, it?s a pretty good organization. I just gotta fit in and do my thing," Lackey said. "I've always heard good things about the organization. You do research on teams just like they do research on you. It's been easier than I thought it was gonna be. The guys have been very fun to play with and it's a cool clubhouse."

The one adjustment Lackey has had to make in an otherwise seamless transition is lining up behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester in the rotation. He was the ace in Los Angeles for several years.

Like everything else, though, that adjustment process was as smooth as can be.

"If I would've stayed over there [with the Angels] and one of those guys were to go over there, I would expect to still go first. But this is their team," Lackey said of Beckett and Lester. "They've done a lot of things for this organization and for [Francona] to show that loyalty to them is the right thing."

With that comment, Lackey's meeting with the media was over. He unwrapped the ice from his arm and got dressed, quiet as a mouse.

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