John Lackey took the mound today in the first Red Sox Spring Training game against Major League competition. For Lackey, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, this was his first start in any real game action in about 18 months. Typically pitchers recovering from TJ surgery struggle with the command of their pitches, while their velocity seems to find an added boost from their robo-arm. So, basically, I wasn’t expecting much from John Lackey, but was excited to see him out there anyway. There’s a lot riding on this guy if this team is going to finish anywhere above .500% or being in playoff contention. No pressure, right?
Lackey started just as I figured he would: a 5-pitch walk to start the game. His continued to struggle with his control, as he let a high, meaty fastball sail right Desmond Jennings’ wheelhouse, though he fortunately missed it and hit a hard single through the left side instead. Lackey capped up the top of the order disaster by hitting Matt Joyce, a lefty, on the shoulder to load the bases with no outs heading into the heart of the Rays order.
The good news? Lackey recorded 3 straight outs to follow this, with a nice sequence to strike out Jack Cust, a Sac Fly to right that scored Ben Zobrist, and a fly out. So, with no outs and the bases jacked, Lackey escapes with only one run in. Impressive, given the circumstances.
Lackey spoke to NESN’s Jenny Dell in the dugout following his inning of work.
“It felt great,” he said referring to his pitching arm. “It was good to be back out there. [I] threw a lot of fastballs, arm felt good. It’s good to be back.”
You’ve got to imagine there were some nerves for Lackey as well, who threw 10 of his 20 pitches for strikes. Only time will tell what Lackey will contribute to this team, but all in all, it wasn’t a terrible first outing of the spring.
Ruby de la Rosa Reaction
Apparently the soon-to-be 24-year-old is turning heads down in Fort Myers with his stuff. It prompted Pedro Martinez, who has known de la Rosa for years and watched him evolve, to compare him to some of the greatest pitchers ever in a conversation with WEEI.com.
“He has an opportunity to be someone special. Not just a regular player, but special. When you see someone like de la Rosa you think someone special, like a Clemens, a Juan Marichal. You think about elite players. That’s the type of stuff he has.”
Coming from one of the greatest pitchers ever himself, that’s incredibly high praise. Ruby de la Rosa grew up admiring Martinez in the Dominican Republic, and the two are actually cousins. Pedro’s role on this team could very well be purely to turn this guy into the next Pedro Martinez, and if that’s the case, the future will be bright for years to come.
There’s been lots of speculation as to what the Red Sox batting order would look like this season, and we may have had our first glimpse at the top of the order today. Jacoby Ellsbury led off, followed by Dustin Pedroia, both familiar spots for the Red Sox vets. Newcomer Shane Victorino stepped up in the 3-hole followed by Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting cleanup, Johnny Gomes in the 5 hole and Will Middlebrooks batting 6th. Absent from today’s lineup were David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, so nothing is set in stone quite yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Napoli take over that clean up spot and Ortiz bat fifth, moving everyone else down. It’s also reasonable to think that Will Middlebrooks could hit cleanup if he’s comfortable doing so. It’s still plenty early though, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
Return of the Idiots
Okay, so Johnny Damon is walking through that door, and frankly no one wants him to. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past decade of Red Sox baseball, it’s that clubhouse chemistry, more than anything, will determine how far this team can advance. On paper, the 2011 and 2012 Red Sox should have been record-setting winners. Instead, we’ve received two of the most storied seasons in history – for all the wrong reasons.
The team needed an overhaul of fun, loose veteran experience, so that’s what they got. Two of the new guys, OF Johnny Gomes and C David Ross, are bringing that lighter, enjoyable atmosphere to the team already.
Gomes and Ross, who have nicknamed themselves “Ironsides” and “Blue Wolf”, respectively, decided to dress up and go gator hunting yesterday. The two went out on a professional airboat tour and got to see real gators in their natural habitats. When they got back to dry land, the two even held baby gators. While some may cry foul at their players going out in search of Alligator-induced fun, there’s nothing wrong with some safe, guided goofiness to get a chuckle out of everyone from the clubhouse. At least they aren’t drunk in the clubhouse yet, right? These two might be just what the doctor ordered.