Lackey had gone 515 days without pitching in a real game. His right elbow gave out by the end of the 2011 season, the ulnar collateral ligament so frayed that doctors were surprised he found a way to get the ball to the plate.
Tommy John reconstruction surgery and months of rehabilitation followed.
Lackey finally took the mound Saturday as the Red Sox opened their spring training schedule with a 4-3 loss to a Tampa Bay Rays split squad at JetBlue Park. He threw just one inning but rarely have 20 pitches been so satisfying.
“I missed playing baseball," said Lackey. “It was fun being back out there.”
Lackey warmed up like he normally would. But there was one change to his usual routine.
“I kind of took a second before I went on the mound on the bench and kind of reflected on the past year and a half,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work. I’ve got to thank a lot of trainers, a lot of people that helped me get back to this point. I was excited to be back out there.”
Lackey loaded the bases on 10 pitches, his excitement causing his fastball to ride high in the strike zone. He walked Ben Zobrist before Desmond Jennings singled. Lackey then hit Matt Joyce in the back.
“He was pretty charged up,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “But then he settled down. It was the old Lack.”
Let me start by reflecting on the last line of that selected quote...WE DON'T WANT THE OLD LACK! Lackey changed some stuff up, got out of a jam, and looked decent in the spring training opener. He gave us hope for a new Lackey, and that is everything we want from him going into the season.
The sample size was small, with Lackey only throwing 20 pitches, but you could see the difference. We will obviously get a better idea of what the rebuilt John Lackey will be like over his next few starts.
Oh, and Jose Igleasias went deep in the game...good for him. Cue the love from the rest of the Ted's Army staff. He is not going to get any form me.
Related: WEEI: John Lackey on his spring debut: 'I missed playing baseball' | Herald: Lackey alters delivery | CSNNE: Lackey gets complete makeover
On Page 2, Clay Buchholz has no issues with him hamstring
Buchholz threw 20+ pitches in a "first inning" then sat down before coming back for a "second inning" in which he worked on his secondary pitches.
The righty said he had some kinks to work out from the stretch, but said they weren't related to his hamstring.
"There were no issues," said Buchholz. "I've been running the last few days. It's all good."
That is great news. That is pretty much all there is to say about that.
Related: Herald: Clay's strain reaction fine
The rest of the links:
WEEI: Ryan Lavarnway's fianguides hungry fans through Oscars, baseball season | Red Sox drop Grapefruit League opener to Rays as Jose Iglesias goes yard | Xander Bogaerts off to Taiwan for WBC: "I'm excited" | ESPN Boston: Takeaways: Rays 4, Sox 3, Lackey priceless | Globe: In nonprofit game, many athletes post losing records | Baseball coverage in today's Globe | Grapefruit League Game 2: Red Sox at Cardinals | Lackey returns, Rays beat Red Sox in spring opener | For John Lackey, a welcome return | Herald: Plenty of positives at Fort | CSNNE: Bogaerts 'excited' to play in World Baseball Classic | Nava gets first action at first base