Lackey 'trying to give the bullpen a rest'

Lackey 'trying to give the bullpen a rest'
April 24, 2014, 12:15 am

John Lackey is in line to start the second game of the season in Baltimore on April 2.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON - Wednesday night at Fenway, John Lackey was the other starting pitcher.

The one who wasn't caked with pine tar. The one who wasn't ejected in an embarrassing manner. And the one who pitched his team to a win with an impressive outing.

While counterpart Michael Pineda found himself being examined and tossed in the second, Lackey went eight innings and allowed just one run in a 5-1 victory over the Yankees.

"He was outstanding,'' said John Farrell. "We staked him to an early lead. He made a lot of big pitches, particularly early on. He threw a lot of strikes, got ahead in the count. He had very good fastball location, a much more consistent curveball. But more than anything, it was his ability to stay out of the middle of the plate. That's an offense that can do a lot of damage quick and he slowed them down with good location and a good breaking ball.''

The outing was important for two reasons. First, Lackey had been shellacked in his last two outings and needed to make some adjustments. Secondly, the Sox bullpen had been so overworked of late that the team needed to make an emergency call-up of Alex Wilson just to give them another available arm.

The Sox needed innings and Lackey gave them to the Sox. And quality innings at that.

"He had better consistent location,'' said Farrell. "A lot of strikes and a lot of quality strikes.''

"I was thinking about trying to give the bullpen a rest, for sure,'' said Lackey, 3-2. "We've got some guys down there who've been worked pretty good the last week or so, so I was trying to give those guys a little bit of a breather and win a ballgame.

"It was a challenge and motivation (to go deep). It's not something I haven't done before. It's something I'm capable of and expect out of myself.'' Lackey said he didn't make many adjustments following two straight sub-par outings other than to utilize more of a mix of his pitches instead of relying so much on his fastball, especially early in the game.

He also consistently got ahead -- he didn't walk anyone -- and threw an astounding 76 percent of his pitches for strikes.

But -- and this was key -- he pitched around the strike zone, and not in the middle of it.

"There is such a thing as too many strikes if you're hitting the white part of the plate too much,'' said Lackey. "I was fortunate tonight to be hitting the corners more times than not. We had a good mix going, so it wasn't like I was only throwing one pitch for a strike. I was able to mix it up a little bit and that helped.''