Lackey allows 3 runs in minor league start

Lackey allows 3 runs in minor league start
March 26, 2013, 6:30 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – In  his next-to-last spring training start, John Lackey went 5 1/3 innings against the Rays Triple-A Durham Bulls. He gave up three runs on six hits and four walks with seven strikeouts.  Facing 26 batters, Lackey threw 101 pitches, 54 for strikes.
 
“Felt good,” Lackey said. “Got to the number of  pitches I wanted to get up to. Got up six  times. Got what I needed accomplished and keep moving forward.”
 
In one of the quirks of spring training minor league games, Lackey’s fifth inning was cut short after just one out to allow him to get up and down for six innings.
 
“Six times up, which is very important for him,” said pitching coach Juan Nieves. “He’s gone five innings twice before that. Finished strong, 100 pitches. Built up his pitches, built up the fact that he’s up and down. So it’s wonderful, the fact that he walks out of that mound healthy.  It’s what we’re looking for. And even during the course of the season every time he walks out for the sixth inning that’s a very positive scene for us because it shows that he’s healthy. He’s in the game, and of course he’s able to manage and handle a lineup accordingly, too.”
 
Lackey’s pitch count got elevated in the fourth when he faced eight batters, throwing 23 pitches.  He gave up all three runs in that frame on four hits, a walk, and an error, with one strikeout.
 
“A couple of hard hit balls, probably a ground ball that should have been caught,” said Nieves.  “It’s actually good that [the starting pitchers] have to extend themselves a little bit.  You don’t want to get to 35-40-pitch innings, but when you stay between 20 and 25 pitches it’s great because it’s building endurance.”

 
“I was trying to get my work in honestly,” Lackey said. “Being on the back field on an off-day, you know, motivation was a little bit of an issue, I guess.”
 
The outing was Lackey’s seventh of the spring, with two  in minor league games, both against the Bulls. He will have one more outing in Fort Myers, an intrasquad game on Sunday, before heading north.  Nieves said all the starting pitchers will have shorter outings for the remainder of spring training, about four innings and 60 pitches.
 
For Lackey, 34, who did not pitch in 2012 after Tommy John surgery in November 2011, this spring has gone about as well as he could have hoped. It’s been nice to be able to pitch and not worry about his surgically repaired elbow.
 
“I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself,” he said. “But it’s gone pretty good. Pretty happy where my stuff is right now. I was throwing off-speed pitches for strikes, felt good about that. I tried to throw a lot of fastballs the last couple of innings and tried to stretch it out a little bit. It’s gone pretty well.”
 
Often those results are seen away from game activity.
 
“It’s been a very smooth ride,” Nieves said of Lackey’s spring. “Even after the stress of throwing three innings, four innings, five innings twice, where I’ve seen the best results has also been in the bullpens. That’s when you really see it, because every five days guys are going to be well-rested, recharged. But when you see guys throwing a very healthy bullpen, that’s wonderful. That’s when you can really see the ball coming out. Their delivery’s not being hindered or the arm angle hasn’t changed, the ball is coming out with no restrictions. That’s when you really see health.
 
“A lot of guys – and I’m one of the examples is that guys are sore on day 2 when they throw their bullpen. You don’t get that much out of it because, first of all, you’re sore. You’re looking to throw the ball where it doesn’t’ hurt. And there’s a lot of changes armwise and deliverywise and guys are just laboring thru a bullpen. But his bullpens have been full, 44, 45 pitches," Nieves said. "There was one bullpen he threw 52 pitches and he felt great, even after a long start. So that shows me health. If he was dragging after a – first of all starting a bullpen, the ball not coming out, second of all, if I see arm-angle changes when they’re looking for the spot that they feel it doesn’t’ hurt. But I haven’t seen that.
 
“So, it’s been a very pleasant spring training for him. And I know it’s been a little longer for him because he’s had that extra start. And he’s going to have a start here the day after we leave. But I’d rather have him throw here under game speed and warm weather than the weather in New York.”
 
Lackey’s season is scheduled to start April 6 in Toronto. It will be the first time he takes the mound in a regular season game since Sept. 25, 2011 in New York. A lot has happened since then. For Lackey. For the Red Sox. On the field. Off the field. It will be the first time he will be pitching with a healthy elbow in a very long time.
 
Lackey, though, prefers not to dwell on what has transpired.
 
“I’m looking forward,” he said. “I’m not looking at elbow issues. Trying to go forward.”
 
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J.C. Linares sustained a sprained left wrist attempting to catch Stephen Vogt’s double off Lackey in the fourth inning. ... Righthander Matt Barnes, the Sox first-round (19th overall) pick in 2011 out of UConn, pitched five scoreless innings in the Double-A game, giving up two hits with four strikeouts. ... The Red Sox host the Marlins on Wednesday. Lefthander Jon Lester, the Sox unofficial but projected Opening Day starter, will make his final spring training start before Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday.  Righthander Kevin Slowey is scheduled to start for the Marlins. ... Also scheduled to pitch Wednesday: Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Jose De La Torre, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Bailey.