Lackey retired six out of eight hitters faced in a simulated game
Though a rash of injuries to key names and dysfunction in the clubhouse with a manager who can’t get along his players have contributed to the demise of the Boston Red Sox this season, inconsistent starting pitching is an instrumental reason why the team is headed for its first sub-.500 finish since 1997.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington insists that the club will upgrade its rotation in the off-season, and one candidate is already on the 40-man roster. John Lackey – the 33-year-old right-hander who underwent Tommy John surgery on November 1, 2011 – tossed a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday at Tropicana Field, where the Red Sox are in the midst of a four-game series against Tampa Bay.
Lackey threw 27 pitches and retired six out of eight hitters faced in simulated game conditions. Mauro Gomez, Daniel Nava, Guillermo Quiroz and Ivan De Jesus batted against Lackey, who threw fast balls. The veteran of 10 Major League seasons is scheduled to pitch an intrasquad game this weekend in Ft. Myers, where Red Sox prospects are gathered for the beginning of the fall instructional league.
The Red Sox, which have just $46-plus million in payroll commitments for 2013, could trade Lackey this off-season if a team makes them an offer they can’t refuse. Lackey, who has a 128-94 career record with a 4.10 ERA, is owed $15.25 million a year through 2014.
When spring training arrives, he expects to be fully recovered from the procedure. Pitching with a balky elbow, Lackey was 12-12 with a 6.48 ERA in 28 starts for the Red Sox last year. The Abilene, Texas native had experienced elbow discomfort for parts of the last three seasons. He was 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA over 33 starts and 224 innings in 2007, the last season he was fully healthy. Lackey did make 33 starts and log 215 innings for Boston in 2010, posting a 14-11 record and a 4.40 ERA.
Likely, the Red Sox will either sign a frontline starter like Jake Peavy, Dan Haren or James Shields (if their respective teams decline their club options) or trade for an ace during the off-season. If they keep Lackey, he will join a rotation that will include Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. Aaron Cook and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who are also in the current Red Sox rotation, are free agents who will not be brought back.