BOSTON – Right-hander John Lackey, on the disabled list since April 6 when he walked off the mound in Toronto clutching his right arm, is expected to make his next start Sunday. Lackey was finishing up a bullpen session Thursday afternoon when manager John Farrell said all the signs were “pointing to John starting on Sunday.”
How deep into the game Lackey would be able to go remains to be determined.
“That’ll be an in-game decision,” Farrell said. “We have an off-day on Monday. If we’ve got to use the bullpen, which we anticipate at some point, but that’s the approach taken right now.”
But given how Lackey reacted in his lone start of the season, after throwing his 76th pitch in 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays, perhaps missing just three weeks is the best-case scenario. The injury, a right biceps strain, occurred in his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.
“It didn’t look good, the way he walked off, the way he was favoring his right arm,” Farrell said. “But the exam and the strength test after the strain settled down, and the fact that he was able to get out and make a rehab start [Monday in Portland] was encouraging. No restrictions there, didn’t really feel any discomfort of any kind. So he’ll go into Sunday, provided that tomorrow he checks out, he should go into Sunday with little hesitation from a mental standpoint in that start.”
-- David Ortiz is in the lineup again tonight for the series opener against the Astros. After being activated Saturday from the disabled list, where he began the season after Achilles and heel ailments, Farrell will look for ways to be cautious with Ortiz.
“We will and he’ll give guidance on how he’s feeling,” Farrell said. “I don’t want to say the weather predicates a lot of it but it’s a factor that we took into account [on Tuesday]. We’ve got an off-day coming up Monday so he’s in the lineup today. And we’ve got kind of a feel for the number of consecutive days before we would consider another planned off-day. So part of that would be on how David comes out of each and every game. He’s been tested on the basepaths right from the get-go and he’s responded very well.”
With the Sox starting a three-game series in Toronto on Tuesday, Farrell may look to give Ortiz some downtime on the turf.
“It’ll be something that’ll come up in conversation,” Farrell said. “If there’s the need or the desire to build in back to back days and two days down, that would be something that we would bring into the conversation. We’ve yet to sit down with David here today.”
-- Despite leading the Sox with five home runs, Will Middlebrooks continues to struggle at the plate. He is currently on an 0-for-9 skid, went just 1-for-11 with a home run in three games against the A’s, which snapped a 4-for-44 slide.
It’s not Middlebrooks’ mechanics, Farrell stressed.
“We’ve got to get him back to swinging at strikes first and foremost,” Farrell said. “That will allow that swing to play. He’s expanded the zone up , he’s expanded the zone off the plate. When he swings at strikes he puts a very consistent swing on a pitch, but right now he’s gone very early in the count where he might not be fully confident and trusting himself and we’ve just got to break thru that a little bit. We’re not trying to make him into an ultra-patient hitter just zeroing in on a more defined strike zone.”
-- The Red Sox are in first place in the division, two games ahead of the Orioles. The only other time they have entered play on April 25 with a first-place lead of at least two games was in 1904, when they were 2 1Ž2 games ahead of the Philadelphia A’s.
-- Mike Napoli has 26 RBI in 21 games, four more RBI than anyone else in baseball. He leads the AL with 15 extra-base hits, second in the majors, and is tied for the most doubles with 10.
-- The Sox are now 3-3 against teams with records above .500.