FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Lackey's second-to-last spring start was a mixed bag.
He allowed five runs on six hits -- two of them homers -- while walking two and striking out four in 5 13 innings.
"I felt good, physically,'' said Lackey. "I was really happy with the way my arm felt. Stuff-wise, I feel like I'm ready to go. I would have liked to get up seven times (get into the seventh inning). I wouldn't care if I finished the seventh inning. I didn't quite get there. But my arm feels good. That's all that really matters, I guess.''
Lackey paced himself last spring because the previous two springs were cut short by arm injuries, but worked with more purpose this spring.
"I still have to execute pitches,'' said Lackey, "but as far as strength and stuff-wise, I'm definitely further along than last year. I was definitely being more careful last year, to make it through spring training health-wise. I pushed it a little bit with more long toss and more effort level in my starts this spring.''
Lackey added this his changeup is advanced for this time of the year.
With less than a week to go before they leave Florida, the Sox were still unsure of the final two spots in the bullpen, though a scheduled staff meeting following Tuesday's 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay may have gone a long way toward clarifying the picture.
Francona was unsure when the Sox would get down to their final cutdown and couldn't guarantee that it would be done prior to the team heading to Houston Tuesday afternoon.
"I'd rather do it right than have to set an arbitrary deadline,'' said Francona. "It's certainly better for the pitchers in question to learn of their fate as soon as possible because I know they're on pins and needles.''
There are about eight pitchers competing for the two spots, thought it's fairly clear that Andrew Miller (whom the Sox want to work with at Pawtucket to get his control straightened out) and Randy Williams aren't really in the mix.
That leaves lefties Dennys Reyes, Rich Hill and Hideki Okajima and righties Matt Albers, Scott Atchison and Alfredo Aceves.
Albers is the only pitcher of the six out of options and has pitched well this spring. An industry source said as many as five teams had called the Sox inquiring on Albers, but are said to be not offering much in return.
Reyes, meanwhile, has an out in his contract which allows him to go elsewhere if his minor-league contract isn't purchased by Friday. GM Theo Epstein, however, said earlier this week that Reyes's deadline is somewhat "flexible.''
Boston's loss was its sixth in a row, dropping them to 12-15-1 in Grapefruit League play.
Aaron Bates hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Otherwise, Dustin Pedroia added two doubles and Jason Varitek added two hits of his own.
Darnell McDonald, who left Tuesday's game in Clearwater when his surgically-repaired right thumb began to swell, was improved. Francona said McDonald could have played Tuesday night, but the Sox decided to give him another day off . . . The Sox have their only scheduled day off of the spring Wednesday. Adrian Gonzalez will serve as a DH in a minor-league game, getting some extra at-bats. It will also serve as the first time that Gonzalez has played on back-to-back days since making his spring debut on March 12 . . . Clay Buchholz will start Thursday in Jupiter against Florida, followed by Andrew Miller, Rich Hill and Scott Atchison . . . Outfielder J.D. Drew came out of Tuesday night's game in the third inning, but the Red Sox said there was no injury issue.