Notes: Lackey allows five runs but feels good

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Notes: Lackey allows five runs but feels good

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

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.

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

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Merloni: ‘Missed opportunities left and right’ for Red Sox

Lou Merloni talks about the Red Sox losing 6 out of the last 7 games and if David Price should have stayed in the game for the 9th inning.

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

McAdam: Red Sox at a loss after excruciating defeat

There are still two full months of games left on the schedule and who knows what might happen in that time, or what else might befall the Red Sox.

But for now, it's no stretch to suggest that Thursday's excruciating 2-1 setback in Anaheim constitutes the worst loss of the season to date. The point hardly seems debatable.

Consider:

THE TIMING: This was the start of the longest, and in many ways, most challenging road trip of the season, with 11 games in 11 days. It comes immediately after a homestand that was highly disappointing, featuring a mere split with the last-place Minnesota Twins and a sweep at the hands of the otherwise mediocre Detroit Tigers.

There's been a great deal of attention focused on how many road games the Sox have to play through the rest of the season. Winning the opener -- and snapping a three-game losing streak in the process - would have felt like a strong statement that the club was ready and able to meet the challenges of the schedule.

THE STARTING PITCHER: The loss wiped out a standout performance by David Price, who may well hold the key to whether the Red Sox grab a playoff spot this fall.

Price has been woefully inconsistent in his first season with the Red Sox, alternating between brief stretches of dominance and periods of underwhelming outings.

For a change Thursday night, Price seemed on the verge of winning one of those "statement'' games, when he would make one measly run in the third inning stand up. There have been too many times, given his standing as the team's No. 1 starter, in which Price has pitched just well enough to lose -- like the pitcher's duels in which he came up short against the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Chris Tillman.

But on Thursday, Price didn't buckle. And never mind that he was matched against an aging and depleted Jered Weaver. Price had next-to-nothing with which to work, but he protected the 1-0 lead with a determination he has seldon shown in Boston.

And for his effort to go wasted sets an inauspicious marker for this demanding trip. There was something symbolic about having Price set the tone at the start with a low-scoring, must-have game.

He did his part. Unfortunately for Price, that wasn't enough.

THE WAY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED: Walk-off losses are never pleasant, whether they come on a homer, or a base hit up the middle.

But considering that the Red Sox had the ability to turn Daniel Nava's tapper to first into a game-ending double play, and instead, saw it result in a two-run throwing error on the part of Hanley Ramirez, makes it all the more crushing.

Brad Ziegler, who gave up a go-ahead game-winning homer in the final game of the homestand Wednesday, essentially did his job in the ninth. He got Mike Trout to hit a chopper, which resulted in an infield single. And he kept the ball on the ground and in the infield, with the Sox bringing the infield in with the bases loaded and one out.

Better execution, and the Red Sox walk away with a thrilling 1-0 victory to begin their West Coast trek. Instead, they walk off the field, heads down, with the wrong precedent being set.