FORT MYERS, Fla -- Saturday is a big day for the Red Sox, but an even bigger one for John Lackey.
The Red Sox will kick off their Grapefruit League schedule with a home game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Lackey will be the Red Sox starting pitcher, making his first game appearance -- not counting a brief Instructional League appearance last fall -- since the final week of the 2011 season, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow.
"He's felt great physically," said John Farrell. "His arm shows the looseness we were accustomed to seeing when he was with the Angels and his first year here. I know one thing: he feels really good about himself from a physical standpoint and it's translated into some confidence. (Saturday) begins his progression towards the start of the regular season."
Farrell said Lackey isn't being limited at all physically, and the one-inning outing -- other starters are being allowed two in their first games -- is the result of Lackey pitching first and getting one more spring game than all the others.
"Our goal is to get him to 95-100 pitches before camp ends," said Farrell. "Based on everything so far, he's in a good place. Right now, everything looks in order."
Farrell said Lackey's breaking ball has looked sharp in bullpen sessions.
"He's been aggressive with it," said the manager.
Other pitchers scheduled to face the Rays: Drake Britton; Pedro Beato; Anthony Carter; Jose De La Torre; Oscar Villarreal; Alex Wilson; and Steven Wright.
- Rubby De La Rosa is another Red Sox pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery.
"He's been impressive," said Farrell, "not just the sheer stuff, but the ability to manipulate the baseball. He's got a good feel for his changeup and throws his breaking ball for strikes. But we're dealing with a different set of circumstances than with John (Lackey); we'll be a little bit more slow-paced with Rubby. But he's been impressive early on."
De La Rosa will not pitch more than two innings in any spring appearance.