BOSTON -- Forty-five minutes into his introductory press conference, new general manager Ben Cherington announced something that probably got him off on the right foot with most Red Sox fans:
John Lackey won't be pitching in Boston in 2012.
He'll probably be back in 2013 and beyond, though.
Cherington said Lackey, who's been bothered by elbow problems for the last several years and spent time on the disabled list last season, will undergo Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for 12-18 months.
"Let me start by saying that John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don't think any of us in this room can fully understand," said Cherington, referring to both Lackey's elbow problems and personal issues with his marriage (his wife underwent breast-cancer surgery last offseason, and he filed for divorce in August). "And he got beat up publicly for it a little bit along the way. This guy was dealing with some stuff, both on the field and off the field, that were really difficult. I thought he showed tremendous toughness pitching through that."
While he pitched well in stretches, Lackey finished with a 12-12 record and a 6.41 ERA.
"I talked to him the other day and he's really excited about the future," said Cherington, adding that Lackey "knows that he's a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011.
"I believe he'll come back from surgery as a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011. We'll look forward to having him as part of the staff, most likely in 2013."
Cherington said Lackey consulted with Red Sox team doctors as well as elbow specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum after a season of pitching through pain, and eventually decided to go ahead with the surgery. Dr. Yocum is expected to perform the surgery, according to Cherington.
There is language in Lackey's contract that could enable the Sox to realize nearly 3 million a year in luxury-tax relief if the right-hander misses a season due to elbow problems. The clause triggers a sixth season in Lackey's contract for the major-league minimum salary, which is currently 414,000. That would reduce the annual value of Lackey's deal from 16.5 million to approximately 13.8 million.
Cherington told CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam it's a possibility that this surgery may trigger that clause, but that will be determined at some point in the future.