John Lackey didn’t pitch at all in 2012, and he struggled mightily throughout his two seasons in Boston before that. Yet as the Red Sox prepare to enter spring training in less than a month, Lackey is very much a wild card in the team’s rotation.
Simply put, we don’t know what to expect from Lackey, who went 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA in two seasons with the Sox before undergoing Tommy John surgery during the 2011 offseason. He could follow in the footsteps of the many hurlers who have actually pitched better after the procedure, or he could still be the pitcher who has vastly underperformed since inking a five-year deal before the 2010 season.
For many Red Sox fans, it’s hard to be optimistic. Not only are there now health concerns regarding Lackey, although all indications are that he’s ready to go, but it’s also hard to get past the 6.41 ERA he posted in 28 starts in 2011.
Before writing Lackey off completely, though, let’s not forget the success he enjoyed in Los Angeles. The veteran righty gained a reputation as a guy who loved pressure situations, and he was widely considered to be the Angels’ workhorse. Lackey even finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 2007, a season in which he went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA.
The Red Sox are an interesting team heading into this season. There’s still plenty of talent on the roster, but last year’s struggles left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Climbing the AL East ladder won’t be easy, but in order to do so, the Red Sox need quality starting pitching — something they didn’t have last year.
While the pressure falls largely on the shoulders of the team’s top two starters, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, Lackey is a player who could end up surprising the skeptics.
Tune in to the Red Sox Town Hall on NESN at 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 19.
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