BOSTON -- John Lackey threw 15 pitches to hitters before Saturday night's game at Fenway Park. It was the first time he faced live hitting since his Tommy John surgery. And according to Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, he felt "great" afterwards.
"It's the first step in the new world for him, after a real hard summer of rehab," said Valentine. "And better than how he looked, is how he felt. He said he felt great afterwards. And that's what's really important."
So, how did he look?
"He looked okay," said Valentine. "I mean, considering it's the first time. His breaking ball was really good, which is usually the last thing. He's been working on that less. It was good. He just didn't have real good control of his two-seamer."
Valentine said that he expects Lackey to now get some rest, and then throw again in four days. The goal all along has been to get Lackey a few innings in an actual game before this season ends. The Red Sox manager hinted, on Friday, that those innings could come in Boston.
On Saturday, Valentine said he wasn't sure if that was still the goal. Instead, he pointed toward the goal being having Lackey back for next season. And not just back, but back at full strength.
"Whether or not that has to be opening day, I can tell you right now, I don't think that's necessarily a goal," said Valentine. "To get him back healthy would be the key, 100 percent."
Valentine went on to praise Lackey's work ethic throughout his whole rehab process.
For some outside of the organization, the thought of Lackey being around the Red Sox all season was a distraction. But on Saturday, Valentine called his everyday presence "impressive" and even "religious."
"From the first day of spring training, when I saw John in the weight room, I was impressed with his work," said Valentine. "He works after games, late. He's here religiously. The only day I haven't seen him working out, he had to make a move in Southern California, one day the whole year. It's really been very impressive."