Lackey makes his season debut Tuesday for the Angels when they continue a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
The right-hander will always be remembered by Angels fans for pitching the team to a 4-1 victory on three days’ rest in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie. He’s since had a permanent place in the rotation, and turned in his best season in 2005, going 14-5 with a 3.44 ERA while striking out 199, third-most in the AL.
Even more impressive was Lackey’s surge following the All-Star Break, going 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 15 starts. He pitched effectively in the Division Series against the New York Yankees, posting a 2.38 ERA without a decision in two starts, but his season ended on a sour note when he allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS.
Lackey was rewarded for his work Monday when he agreed to a two-year contract extension through 2008 that guarantees him an additional $13.25 million.
“John has been a productive member of our pitching staff since his 2002 rookie season,” Los Angeles general manager Bill Stoneman said. “We are thrilled to reach this multiyear agreement with him.”
Lackey said the extension won’t change his approach.
“The security’s nice and everything, but I’d be putting the same amount of pressure on myself pitching tomorrow night regardless,” he said.
Lackey went 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA and 16 strikeouts in two starts at Safeco Field last season.
Angels designated hitter Tim Salmon could make his first start of the season after grounding out as a pinch hitter in Monday’s 5-4 victory in the season opener. Salmon, the franchise leader with 290 homers, missed all of last season rehabbing left knee and shoulder injuries and will receive part-time duty this season.
“I’m still trying to feel my way and what my role is going to be,” Salmon said. “I can’t come in every day thinking I’m going to play and feeling that intensity.”
Orlando Cabrera’s two-run single snapped a 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth inning to lift Los Angeles to the season-opening victory. The Angels also got four solid innings from their bullpen, which allowed only one hit—a solo homer by pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine off closer Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth.
Rodriguez struck out two in the ninth for his first save and 19th straight dating to last season.
Seattle rookie Kenji Johjima, the first Japanese catcher in the major leagues, had an impressive debut with a solo homer in the fifth inning. Johjima hit 211 homers in 11 seasons for Fukuoka in the Japanese Pacific League.
“It was a very good opening day, but the result just wasn’t right,” Johjima said through an interpreter. “I can’t say I’m satisfied with today’s result.”
The Mariners are hoping starter Joel Pineiro will help them even this series when he takes the mound Tuesday. Pineiro struggled last season, going 7-11 with a career-high 5.62 ERA in 30 starts.
“Joel needs to believe in his ability to get big-league hitters out,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “Not that he ever lost that, but he needs to re-establish that.”
Pineiro, however, went 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in two starts against the Angels in 2005.
The right-hander pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico in March, going 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts.