TORONTO -- The second John Lackey grabbed his right arm on the mound, just after uncorking a pitch that was supposed to be a cut fastball away and instead almost hit Jose Reyes in the foot, the rest of the Red Sox held their collective breath.
"Oh, God,'' thought Clay Buchholz from the dugout as he watched his teammate, 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery and making his first regular season start since September of 2011.
"It stinks,'' said David Ross, shaking his head. "Everybody's worried for him. I'll say a prayer for him.''
When Lackey left the mound with a trainer and manager John Farrell a minute later, his right arm hanging limp, the worries weren't erased.
"Your heart kind of skips a beat for a second,'' recounted Jonny Gomes.
As it turns out, there's reason to believe that Lackey's injury is not as calamitous as it first appeared. After the Red Sox' 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, the club called the injury a right biceps strain.
"He felt kind of a cramping sensation,'' said manager John Farrell. "Obviously, we took him out immediately, but once he was in the clubhouse and iced it down, that cramping went away. The strength test, at least in the training room, showed to be positive in terms of full strength. But we're going to get him back [to Boston] and get a full exam (Sunday).''
A pitch before the injury seemed to occur, Lackey was seen flexing the right arm, attempting to get loose.
"I saw the movement,'' said Farrell, "but at the time [Lackey] didn't feel it was anything to be alarmed by. He did acknowledge that he felt something there -- nothing compared to what he felt on the last pitch he threw. Obviously, when he grabbed it as he did (following the next pitch), it was a clear sign we had to get him out of there.''
Farrell stressed that at no time did Lackey experience any discomfort in his surgically repaired elbow.
"The elbow is fine,'' said Farrell. "This is in the belly of the biceps, so it's kind of an abnormal area to feel that grabbing sensation on one pitch. But I think the encouraging this is, as he came out of the game, the soreness and cramping feeling had subsided.
"Any time you see a pitcher on one pitch grab [something], it's obviously not a good sign. Hopefully, through the testing that he'll go through, we'll get more information. At least following the game, there's some positive coming out the symptoms as they've decreased.''
Lackey described the sensation "like a pretty good cramp. It was all in the biceps, wasn't the elbow, so . . . Pretty frustrating and a little scary when it happened, for sure. It's sore, but hopefully not too serious.''
Another positive sign was that Lackey felt no numbness in the hand, as he had with elbow troubles.
"It was pretty much right in the belly of the biceps,'' he said. "It was kind of like a hamstring kind of thing. I would liken it to that, I guess.''
In conversations with other pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery, Lackey has run into some who had similar biceps issues afterward.
"We'll see what happens [Sunday],'' he said. "Hopefully, it's not too serious . . . The tests they ran on me today looked pretty good. Hopefully we'll get a picture of it tomorrow and we can get after it and it's nothing too crazy.''
Lackey was asked what he thought as he trudged off the mound.
"A year-and-a-half of getting to this point and having to do it again,'' he said glumly.
The tough part, in the short-term, was that Lackey was throwing as well as he was before the injury.
In 4 1/3 innings, he had struck out eight without walking a batter and his fastball hit as high as 94 mph.
"I felt really good,'' said Lackey. "I made one mistake. I pounded the strike zone pretty well, had some strikeouts. I felt like my stuff was pretty good.''
"He looked sharp,'' said Farrell. "He had good action to his secondary stuff. The velocity was probably the best we've seen to date. He was free and easy. He threw all of his pitches for strikes. He got a cutter up in the zone to [J.P.] Arencibia (for a two-run homer in the fourth). But other than that, he pitched out of a jam a couple of times with men on base. Into the [last] inning, he was pitching (as well) as we could have anticipated or hoped.''
"He threw the ball well,'' remarked Ross. "Fastball, cutter was really good. He was moving the ball in and out. Early on, he was a little more amped up, then he settled in after that. He was really dominant.''