Back To Full Strength: What To Expect From The Red Sox’ John Lackey

Sox fans should give Lackey a chance to prove himself this season.

Sox fans should give Lackey a chance to prove himself this season.

Every Red Sox fan has their own opinion of John Lackey.  Most of them are that he should have never been signed in the first place.  The Red Sox needed pitching in the 2009 off season, as most teams always do and they signed Lackey to a 5 year $82.5 million contract.  That means this season Lackey will make just over $15 million.  Is that a lot for a pitcher who had the worst ERA in the history of baseball two seasons ago and missed last year for Tommy John surgery?  Yes it most certainly is.  As Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said last week, most baseball players don’t live up to their contracts. A player is most valuable to the team he is initially drafted by when they are going through the arbitration process, something that young star Will Middlebrooks has not even hit yet.

John Lackey signed with the Red Sox after spending eight seasons with the Angels.  He was a respectable pitcher getting double digit wins almost every year and having a decent ERA.  That was pitching in the AL West.  Come to the American League East and he saw his ERA balloon to an astounding 6.41 in a year he made 28 starts. 28 starts!  Having an ERA like that is nearly impossible, yet obtained by Lackey.  The chicken and beer stories are known.  Lackey double fisting in the locker room is also known about.  This year John Lackey will try to prove that he might have been worth the years on his contract, as players never live up to the money.  The Red Sox with their injury history concerns, of course created a clause in his contract that if he missed significant time with an elbow injury they get an extra year of him for the veteran’s minimum of $500,000.  That season will not come until 2015 where maybe they could ship him off, but let us focus on 2013.

John Lackey could end up being a number five starter making more money than some teams pay their number one starter.  Behind Lester and Buchholz, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront figure to fall three and four with Lackey number five.  Not long ago Lackey was between Jon Lester and drinking buddy Josh Beckett in the rotation.  Last year Lackey was around the team while not pitching in one game.  Some fans believed he should have just been home, while I for one think he should be with the team that is paying him millions of dollars.  Josh Beckett is gone whether it was for fifty cents on the dollar or not, that remains to be seen. One of them had to go and Beckett was the one.

Reports from Florida have been saying that Lackey is in the best shape he has been in while being with the Red Sox.  This is good news as he has put the work in to come into spring training in shape and ready to pitch. Elbow pain free Lackey can give this spring a full go.  Tommy John Surgery has been successful for many pitchers,  although it is a full year of rehab, some pitchers come back better than ever.  Several pitchers like Kerry Wood and John Smoltz have come back throwing harder.  The Nationals are hoping Stephen Strasburg, with no innings limit this season, will truly show what kind of pitcher he is after Tommy John Surgery.  I am not saying Lackey will be throwing in triple digits or is the next John Smoltz but, if he can pitch 200 innings and get that ERA around his career average of 4.10 maybe he can prove to Red Sox fans that he deserves to be rooted for.

Three Predictions for John Lackey this season:

  1. He will make more starts than Felix Doubront.
  2. He will have double digits wins, but also double digits loses.
  3. Baring another injury he will pitch over 200 innings like he did in four of his first six seasons.

If Lackey does not let the Boston media effect his performance he could have an above average year with the Red Sox. Rumors of Lackey’s marriage failing and then being approached about it got him very upset, which is understandable.  Some players cannot handle Boston. So far this spring he is saying the right things. This year John Lackey is out to prove something and Red Sox fans hope it is something good.

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