John Lackey: End-of-September reprieve could serve arm strength well

October 05, 2013 - 8:30 am

After 29 starts and 189 1/3 innings in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, John Lackey has enjoyed some rest over the last week and a half. He hasn'€™t pitched since Sept. 24 '€” a six-inning effort in Colorado '€” and the Red Sox' scheduled ALDS Game 2 starter said the break could give him a boost as he readies for the possibility of up to a handful high-stress games in the coming weeks. '€œWe were in a pretty good position as far as playoffs. [Manager John Farrell] kind of gave me a little breather,'€ Lackey said Friday, the day before his first postseason game since 2009. '€œI think that definitely could help me as far as rejuvenating me a little bit, I guess.  For the most part I felt pretty good all season.  Got to give a lot to doctors and trainers, a lot of credit for that, a lot of help in the off'€‘season. And during last season with the rehab, for sure.'€ The numbers agree. Lackey owns a 3.89 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts-per-nine rate when he pitches on four or five days of rest, with those numbers improving to 3.18 and 9.53 when throwing after six-plus days, which, granted, he has done just four times in 2013. Also working to Lackey'€™s advantage Saturday is that he'€™s at Fenway Park, where he has pitched considerably better than elsewhere this season: Home (13 starts): 2.47 ERA, .232 opponents batting average, 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio Away (16 starts): 4.48 ERA, .260 opponents batting average, 3.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio Lackey could offer no explanation for his home excellence. '€œI don't know what that is, because really this place probably isn't one of best places to pitch,'€ Lackey said. '€œIt should be the other way around. '€œWe've got a great fan base, and it's a fun place, good atmosphere, so who knows?  If I knew, I'd pitch better on the road, I guess.'€ Given Lackey'€™s overall consistent success in '€˜13 '€” no matter the location or how many days he had between starts '€” Farrell credited his long-term commitment to getting in shape after surgery. '€œJohn Lackey the way he's performed this year, you can't not acknowledge the work that he put in the off'€‘season,'€ Farrell said. '€œComing back from Tommy John, that rehab is pretty straightforward, but the commitment that he made to reshape his body, to put himself where he is physically, to me that's correlated to the consistency that he's been in our rotation. The reshaping of the body has allowed him to command the baseball, just because he's been able to repeat his delivery more consistently. And he's been probably one of our top two starters in terms of consistency, start to finish.'€ Here are other highlights from John Lackey'€™s pregame news conference: On his relationship with Joe Maddon during their time together with the Angels: He was great over there. He was a guy as a bench coach that you could kind of go to and get a feel what [Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia] was thinking, kind of a go'€‘between [for] the players and [Scioscia]. On what it means to be pitching in the postseason again: I'm excited about it. It's been a few years since I've been in the postseason, but this is why you play the game. This time of year is what we're all here for. On how beneficial the Red Sox players'€™ playoff experience is: It can help for sure. You kind of know what to expect. As a starter you know you've got this to do, the day before you pitch. And we can kind of help some of the younger guys that haven't been in the postseason. There's going to be ceremonies before the game, and how to prepare yourself to get ready for the game and try to block out some of the stuff around the game and still just play baseball.