McAdam: New beginning for Lackey

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McAdam: New beginning for Lackey

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The pitching line -- 5 23 innings, three earned runs -- wasn't anything that would otherwise get noticed. It was an average start, no more, no less.

But for John Lackey, owner of the line in question, it represented much more. Fifty-nine games into the season, it's a fresh start, a new beginning.

Lackey 2.0, if you will.

Through his first seven starts, Lackey wasn't just bad. He was historically bad, with a 8.01 ERA and four games in which he allowed six or more runs.

The Red Sox placed him on the disabled list in mid-May, with the hope that his elbow would benefit from a cortisone shot and some rest.

Lackey's fastball was regularly 91-92 mph, a slight uptick from his outings in April and May when he often struggled to maintain 90.

"Especially early on,'' noted Terry Francona, "he got his fastball by people and got some swings and misses.''

The biggest improvement Sunday, however, came with his secondary pitches. His cut fastball had more bite and depth and he also spotted his changeup effectively.

"I think,'' concluded Francona, "it worked out pretty well . . . He knows how to pitch. It was what we hoped for.''

Not dominant, certainly, and the command -- two walks, three hit batsmen -- was off. But it was a marked improvement over some of his earlier starts when Lackey turned ballparks into shooting galleries.

"I thought he looked great,'' enthused catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "I think he had better velocity on his fastball. The ball was coming out better. For the most part, his cutter was back to where I remember it being.''

Lackey's last start before his trip to the DL, of course, looked to many to be a man in distress, complaining that "everything in my life sucks right now,'' a clear reference to some off-field issues and the health of a family member.

In that last game, Lackey was a bundle of emotions, gesturing in displeasure when plays weren't made behind him. Sunday, he seemed to be in better control of his emotions, even if his actual control was spotty.

"The elbow definitely felt better than it had been,'' said Lackey. "Physically, I'm going to feel something. It just is what it is in there. But I felt like I was ready to go, ready to compete.''

He also made a subtle reference to being naturally distracted to his personal issues.

"I've just got get back to performing the way I can perform,'' he said. "I can't let outside stuff affect me. I just have to handle my business.''

While Lackey was away, the Red Sox pulled themselves out of their early spinout, reaching .500 and then climbing over it. The lineup ignited. Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves generally filled in admirably. The panic atmosphere disappeared.

With three-and-a-half years remaining on his five-year deal, the Sox weren't about to cast Lackey aside. They could just hope that the downtime helped his elbow, and maybe, cleared his head some.

Off one outing, it seemed to have worked.

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz constitute the rotation's Big Three. Salary aside, Lackey doesn't have to be a front-of-the-rotation ace. But he needs to give his team a chance to win, which he did Sunday.

"A good place to start, I guess,'' shrugged Lackey after it was over.

Or, more accurately, a good place to start again.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Chris Sale not concerned about which starter is Red Sox' ace

Trenni sits with Chris Sale and David Price during spring training in Fort Meyers.

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

Moreland not worried about filling Ortiz's shoes because 'there's no replacing him'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland knows he's likely the only new player in Boston's lineup since David Ortiz retired at the end of last season.

He's just not listening to those who say he needs to replace Big Papi's lofty production.

"I try not to hear it because there's no replacing that guy," said the 31-year-old first baseman, who signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason.

"I think it's going to be more of a team effort," he said. "Obviously we picked up two big arms as well, and it's a very balanced club."

After playing his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Texas Rangers, Moreland is with a new organization for the first time in his career. So far, he said, the move has been smooth.

"They welcomed me from Day One," he said. "Handshakes and hugs right off the bat. It's going to be a lot of fun. You can see why they had so much success last year."

Coming off a subpar 2016 with a .233 batting average, 22 homers and 60 RBI, Moreland tested free agency. He wanted to go to a team that had a good chance at competing for a championship -- like he felt with the Rangers.

"Something that was at the top of my list as a player," he said. "If I was going to be on a team, I wanted a team that had a chance to win. It makes it that much more fun to come to the park every day when something's on the line and you're fighting for a chance to play in the playoffs, fighting to win the division and fighting to win a World Series."

A first-time Gold Glove winner last season, Moreland knows the defending A.L. East champion Red Sox wanted his defensive skills at first to allow Hanley Ramirez to shift to Ortiz's vacated DH spot.

"It gives you a little more confidence," Moreland said. "I take pride in that. That's going to be my main goal, to go out and show what they saw."

A left-handed batter like Ortiz, Moreland knows some people will expect him to fill the void offensively because of which side of the plate he bats from.

"I think it'll be a group effort picking up what will be missing," he said. "There's no replacing that guy."

Manager John Farrell also said the club needs to move on from Ortiz so Moreland and everyone else can relax and focus on their own game.

"David's effect on the lineup was felt by a number of people. We know opponents would game plan for David," Farrell said. "I think it's important for our guys - as we put David out of our mind, in a good way - that it's still a focus on what their strengths are in the strike zone."

The transition may be easy for Moreland so far, but one thing has certainly changed: spending spring training in Florida instead of Arizona.

"Fishing's a lot different than Arizona, so that's nice," he said.

NOTES: "We're getting a firsthand look to why he's been so successful and an elite pitcher," Farrell said after left-hander Chris Sale pitched batting practice. The Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox in an offseason trade for four prospects. They also acquired right-handed, hard-throwing setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee . . . Farrell said righty Steven Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury, "was unrestricted in his throwing." . . . The Red Sox will have a shorter workout Tuesday with the players association set to talk to the team and the organization's annual charity golf tournament in the afternoon.