Remember him? The right-hander found himself at the center of the beer and chicken scandal last year, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery in November, basically became the invisible man. However, he has thrown some live batting practice, and on Sunday will face hitters for the first time in an Instructional League intrasquad scrimmage in Fort Myers. "It's been weird, for sure," Lackey told the Boston Herald. "This is the first year of my life I haven't played baseball. ... Getting back out there has been fun. You remember how much you like it and why you do it. It's definitely been a year where you miss competing and miss doing what I do." We now know that Lackey has not thrown a single healthy pitch during his underwhelming Red Sox career. His elbow has probably needed surgery since the day he arrived, not that Lackey ever acknowledged it while gutting out 61 starts in two years. "I knew for a while that I was probably going to end up on the shelf for a little while at some point," Lackey acknowledged. "I had to take certain steps just to make my starts. There were definitely a lot of shots involved. I knew something was wrong. I knew it was just a matter of time before I was going to need something worked on, for sure." Here's where things get interesting. Now that he has had his elbow ligament repaired, he finds himself in the unfamiliar position of pitching without pain. Add to that the recent track record of pitchers returning from Tommy John with better stuff than before, and a 2013 Big Three of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Lackey suddenly has real potential. "He could be as good as he's ever been," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was Angels bench coach during Lackey's heyday. "I know John. He's a tremendous competitor. Tremendous competitive spirit. If he's feeling well, you'll know that by his command. If his command comes back and he's able to throw his fastball where he wants to, heads up."
- John Lackey
- Tommy John surgery